Alder

  • Irish name: fearn

  • Scientific name: Aldous glutinosa

The alder is a member of the birch family. It is generally found near streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. It is known for creating a fertile, lush environment for surrounding animal and plant life.

The wood of the alder is smooth and it has beautiful rich tones as it ages.

The sap, leaves, and bark of the alder was used to make dyes. The dyes made from the alder was used to tan leather. Green dye was made from the leaves, red from the sap and brown from the bark. The wood is pliable and water resistant. It was often used to build bridges, pipes, milk pails and pilings for causeways across marshlands. Parts of Venice were built using alder pilings. According to the Woodland League of Ireland, the uses of the alder to the Irish in the past was invaluable. It was used for making the masts of the ships and also for making clogs, and shields. The wood was found to be so hard that if an opponent buried his axe in the shield made of alder, he would find it difficult to withdraw it. This in turn would render the enemy defenceless and an easy target to attack.

In medicine, the alder leaves and bark, which contain tanins, were used as and antiseptic and astringent to treat skin wounds, rashes and swollen glands. In Irish mythology, the first human made from the alder tree. It was considered a tree of the fairies, protected by the water fairy folk but also representing fire and earth. In parts of Ireland it was considered a crime to cut down an alder tree because the spirits would get angry and burn down the houses in revenge. This myth came about possibly because, when alder is felled the sap is red , looking like blood. Alder is quick growing and easy to maintain. Its many uses make this tree one we should value.