I’m off on a flower tangent this week. With no new wildflowers to add to last week’s collection and because I’ve been seeing lots of nice birds (especially Siskin) in Alder trees this week, I thought I’d focus on Alder for my Sunday flower post.
As the Alder (Alnus glutinosa) is monoecious, you can find both the male and female flowers on the same tree. I’ve frequently noticed the male flowers (commonly known as catkins), as they’re the most obvious and are very similar to Hazel catkins. Give them a flick at this time of year and you’re sure to see a shower of yellow ‘dust’ released into the air: that’s the pollen.
However, I hadn’t really paid any attention to the female flowers before and, I admit, I hadn’t really made the connection between the female flowers and the little woody cones they grow in to once fertilised. The female flowers are much smaller and found in little bunches on the stem, usually above the male catkins.
Interestingly, the Woodland Trust website says that ‘The green dye from the flowers was used to colour and camouflage the clothes of outlaws like Robin Hood, and was thought to also colour the clothes of fairies.’ And, of course, in the winter months the seeds from the cones provide essential nourishment to the Siskin, the Goldfinch and the Redpoll. What a bountiful tree the Alder is!