Hazel Alder (Alnus serrulata) is a shrub or a small tree from the birch (Betulaceae) family. It grows very fast, so is often selected to fill in a landscape. It quickly provides shade and begins to draw the attention of birds, eating its fruit and butterflies laying their larvae on the leaves as a food source. The Hazel Adler can be found in moist and wet soils with good drainage.
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This small tree or large shrub is often seen growing along stream sides, riversides, swamps and in wetlands. It can be found in states along the east coast from as far north as Maine all the way down to northern Florida and as far west as the Mississippi River in the states of Oklahoma, Illinois, and Missouri.
It takes approximately ten years for this shrub to mature. At maturity, it stands about eight to fifteen feet tall. Its leaves are dark green and elliptical with vertical veins running parallel across its 2 to 4-inch length. The back of the leaves is a lighter green with a hairy surface. The leaf's edge is wavy. The dark green leaves are set off by the shrub's smooth trunk, which is covered with a thin bark of a dark gray, brown color.
The Hazel alder requires full or partial exposure to the sun. Some plants are female, some male and still some are monoecious, producing both flowers and catkins. In the spring it is one of the first plants to flower, producing small red female flowers and moderately long male yellow-brown catkins each spring. After the female trees are fertilized, the catkins change to a wooden structure like a pine cone. In the fall, because the tree is deciduous and sheds its leaves.
The Hazel alder offers food to birds, deer, and humans as the catkins are eaten by humans and are a good source of protein. The alder is a source of wood, often used to make guitars. It is also used to make herbal medicine when the bark is boiled to make a tea to treat diarrhea, coughs, sore mouths, birth pains, and toothaches.