Speckled Alder (Alnus incana spp. rugosa)

Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) 

The Speckled Alder (Alnus incana); also known as the Tag Alder, Gray Alder, Hoary Alder, Hazel Alder, Swamp Alder and Mountain Alder;  is a monoecious, deciduous, perennial shrub or, rarely, tree in the Birch Family (Betulaceae). The genus name is Latin for "Alder Tree." The Latin word "alnus" originated from the ancient Latin for "growing along streams," which is descriptive of where this shrub is found. The species name comes from the Latin for "gray" (cana). The subspecies name is from the Latin for "wrinkled." This shrub is very common on Mount Desert Island and can be found on the banks of French Hill Pond and on the island in French Hill Pond. This shrub may be easily confused with the Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) or true Mountain Alder (Alnus viridis) both of which are in the Birch Family and are common on Mount Desert Island. The Speckled Alder(Alnus incana) is distinguished from these other shrubs by its prominent, white-speckled, reddish-brown to gray bark as seen in the photograph below. The white speckles are called "lenticels" and consist of a spongy substance that allows the shrub to exchange gases.

The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate, toothed and up to four inches (10 centimeters) long and three inches (8 centimeters) wide. The veins are prominent and the leaf surface is raised between the veins giving them a wrinkled appearance, whence the subspecies name.

Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) Leaves

The male flowers are catkins up to three inches (7.5 centimeters) long as shown in the next photograph. These catkins will mature to a brown color and persist throughout the winter. The female flowers are cone-like, green and about ¼ inch (6 millimeters) long.

Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) Male Flowers

New growth may look like immature fruit of the Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) as shown in the photograph below.

Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) Female Flowers 

The following photograph shows a Speckled Alder in winter. Note the persistent mature catkins. This photograph was taken at the northeast edge of the pond. These plants will generally be found near water.

Speckled Alder in Winter

The fruit is a small cone about ½ inch (one centimeter) long in clusters as shown in the photograph below. The immature cone is smaller, green and tightly closed but eventually turns brown and opens into a cone-like formation. This shrub is not a conifer as such. Some authorities refer to the cones as "fruit clusters." Each scale of the cone has a small, winged seed that is released in the spring. There are 1,084,250 seeds to a pound (0.45 kilograms).

Speckled Alder Cones

The buds on the tip of a twig are hard and may be mistaken for a nut. The photograph below shows a bud.

Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) Nut 

The root system is a rhizomic system. The root system fixes nitrogen that can enhance the growth of nearby trees.

This plant filters water and helps stabilize the soil. It is frequently cultivated and planted as an ornamental and/or to control erosion in wet areas.

Native Americans used this plant for various medicinal purposes. The roots were ground with bumblebee to make a concoction that aided childbirth.


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