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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Alnus serrulata (Smooth alder)
Cressler, Alan

Alnus serrulata

Alnus serrulata (Aiton) Willd.

Smooth Alder, Hazel Alder, Brookside Alder, Tag Alder, Common Alder, Black Alder

Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Synonym(s): Alnus incana var. serrulata, Alnus noveboracensis, Alnus serrulata var. subelliptica

USDA Symbol: alse2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

A multiple-trunked, suckering shrub, 12-20 ft. tall, with a picturesque habit and shiny gray-brown bark. Summer foliage is dark green and glossy, becoming yellow, tinged with red, in fall. Flowers are purple catkins; males in drooping clusters, females in upright clusters. The fruit resembles a small, woody cone and persists through Feb. Sometimes a small tree, commonly found at edge of water.

The only Alder native in southeastern United States, where it is common and widespread, forming thickets.


From the Image Gallery

11 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Obovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Serrate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Catkin
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Height to 15 feet.
Leaf: Dark green above, paler and finely hairy beneath.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Brown cone-like catkin 1/2 inch long.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr
Bloom Notes: Males green-brown, female reddish.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WV
Canada: NB , NS , PE , QC
Native Distribution: N. FL to e. TX, n. to s.w. N.S. (locally), c. ME, c. VT, OH, s. IL, & s.e. MO
Native Habitat: Stream banks; bogs; swamp borders; wet meadows

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Wet, fine sandy loams, peats & mucks.
Conditions Comments: Physiological problems are rare, however the wood is weak and breakage is common. Very flood tolerant. Alders fix nitrogen and thus serve as nutrient-giving pioneers in reclamation projects.


Use Wildlife: An intermediate source of food for wildlife.
Attracts: Birds

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Alder native to Central Indiana
May 30, 2006
I am trying to find out whether there exists a plant named Alnus rugosa. I bought a plant recently that said Speckled Alder, Alnus serrulata (rugosa), but have been unable to determine if this is a c...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Alnus serrulata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Alnus serrulata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Alnus serrulata


Record Modified: 2018-03-07
Research By: TWC Staff

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