White Alder Flowers

White alders (Alnus rhombifolia) flowers bloom in mid-winter on naked twigs before the leaves make their appearance. The red-gold of white alders in bloom adds welcome color to a dull landscape of white, grey, black and brown.

Alders have male and female flower clusters, each borne on different parts of the same branch.

The small, pollen-bearing male flower clusters are aggregated in droopy, slender catkins that occur at the terminus of branchlets in clusters of 3 to 5. Lower down on the twig are the much smaller female flower clusters which  develop into small, woody, persistent cones in clusters of 2 or 3. The cones are green in the autumn when mature. In late fall or early spring the cones become brown and eventually release the seeds.

Ten alder species are native to North America. Interestingly the trees and shrubs of this group are commonly called “alders”, regardless of the species. In this rare case, since colloquial names are seldom used, botanists are the ones that began to sometimes distinguish the different species with common names.

White alders are also called California and western alders.

These white alder flowers were growing at “the point” along Baum Lake (Shasta County CA).

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