Alder is a fast growing tree which is tolerant of wet or poor soil. It is often found in damp, boggy areas or growing along river banks. Catkins appear before leaves open, often as early as January. Female flowers produce small cones which remain on the tree over winter.
The common alder is a valuable and attractive native tree and provides food and shelter for wildlife, insects, lichens and fungi. Alder is a key pioneer species for more demanding follow on species like beech or oak as it improves poor soil by improving drainage and fixing nitrogen.
Alder timber makes good firewood and is useful for joinery especially where timber is exposed to water. Alder shavings are also traditionally used for smoking food.