Alnus cordata is commonly called the Italian Alder and is native to the southern Apennine Mountains of Italy and the northeast mountains of Corsica. It is a medium sized deciduous tree, but has a very long season in leaf (April to December). Its male catkins emerge in Spring before the leaves come out and pollinate the female catkins, which first appear in Autumn. Small winged seeds are dispersed on the wind from the small ‘cones’ which can stay on the tree for a whole year.
Its roots, together with symbiotic bacteria, fix nitrogen in the soil improving its fertility. It thrives on soil that is too dry for other alders and is used on old industrial sites, spoil heaps and compacted urban soils. It is often used as a windbreak.
The tree also produces valuable reddish-orange wood. It breaks down rapidly when exposed to air, but is durable when immersed in water. The timber is used for turning and carving, for moulding, furniture, panelling and plywood.
Funky Facts File: It is often now used in bonsai as it is a quick grower that responds well to pruning with branches ramifying well and leaf size reducing quite rapidly.