Here is a small tree that gives truth to the adage that less is more, at least when sited correctly. This rarely seen tree is the Tag alder, and Alder is the common name of a genus of flowering plants (Alnus) belonging to the birch family, Betulaceae. Alnus comprises about 30 species of monoecious trees (male and female on the same plant) distributed throughout the temperate zone and also along the Andes southwards to Argentina. Tag alder, or Alnus serrulata, is one of the more diminutive alders, smaller in most respects, and exceedingly rare. It is a large shrub that may bcome a small tree 20 to 25 feet tall, typically with multiple trunks. It is native to eastern North America and ranges from the St Lawrence in Canada all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico and the Southern states of the US, which is a considerable range of climate. 
This small Alder is typically found, like most Alders, growing along streams and ponds, and therefore is a good choice for those low and wet spots in the garden, though it will grow on drier ground. It also does well along a woodland verge and is one of the first trees to bloom with showy male catkins, bright yellow, hanging languidly from branch tips and swaying in the slightest breeze. While catkins hang, the female flowers of Tag alder are upright above the catkins and though individually small, are held in clusters and are a gorgeous purple-red and contrast beautifully with the yellow catkins. Tag alder also has bright grayish brown bark. The foliage is dark green in summer which, with the coming of cooler weather, turns into a glossy yellow flushed pink and reddish brown. By that time the fruit has developed, a fruit that resembles a tiny woody cone and persists winter through spring. 
Tag alder is absolutely trouble-free and grows naturally along streams, riverbanks, swamps, and moist landscapes. It will not thrive in arid conditions or dry soil. It does best in full sun but will do surprisingly well in partial shade. It is very resistant to flooding and also attracts a wide variety of bird and insect life.
Tag alder has a quiet beauty but it is also a good practical choice for naturalizing in damp areas and to control erosion. It would do well across the more humid parts of North America, all of the UK, New Zealand and Australia. As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.


Tag alder

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