Speckled Alder Alnus rugosa
Family: Betulaceae (Birch)
Branching: Alternate
Other names: Tag Alder

The most common Alder in Canada.  Found in any wet area, especially if there is standing water for part of the year.  Rarely grows to tree size, but pure stands of Speckled Alder can become very dense and prolific in swampy areas.  The common name comes from the horizontal lenticels on the bark (many other trees have this, notably the birches and cherries).   Their fruits look like miniature "cones" and the presence or absence of stalks on the "cones" can help separate the species.   When leaves are present, they can look alot like Witch-hazel (though the exclusively dry, upland habitat and naked buds of Witch-hazel will differentiate).  The buds are the best way to differentiate between Speckled and the related Green Alder.

The buds of Speckled Alder.  Note how they are two-scaled (one on each side) and almost
appear to form the shape of a mitten (without the thumb of course!)

A closer view of the end bud with fine woolly hairs (not always present)

The "speckled bark".  This is evident on almost every specimen.


A cluster of "cones".  Usually both these and the catkins are very visible on every shrub.Notice how the
"cones" do not have individual stalks.  This separates them from Green Alder.

Typical growth form of Speckled Alder: shrubby and multi-stemmed.  

A view of catkins and "cones" on the same branch.

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copyright © 2008 Josh Sayers
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