Italian Alder - Alnus cordata
Family - Betulaceae
Italian Alder is a fast growing Alder species originally native to southern Italy including Sardinia and Corsica attaining a height of 15-20M (49-65ft) with a conical habit, it was introduced to the UK around 1820. It is a deciduous tree with a long leaf season usually April through to December. Often planted in parks, gardens, woodland and town spaces, it makes an excellent specimen tree. The glossy green leaves are 5-12cm (2-5in) long, alternate, with a finely serrated margin.
It produces fruits that are typically larger than other Alders with slender pendulous cylindrical male ♂ catkins, reddish in colour up to 10cm (4in) long. Pollination is in early spring, before the leaves emerge. Female catkins are ovoid 2-3cm (0.8-1.2in) long dark green ripening to brown as a hard woody fruiting body superficially similar to a conifer cone. Small winged seeds disperse through the winter leaving the black woody "cones" on the tree for up to a year.
As with other alders, Italian Alder it is able to fix nitrogen from the air. It is capable of growing well on much drier soils than most other alders, growing rapidly even under very difficult conditions, a trait which make it valuable for landscape schemes on otherwise inhospitable sites such as derelict land and heavily compacted urban sites, however given good conditions it is most at home near water, its resistance to wind makes it useful for screening and hedges. It has gained The Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. Pollution tolerant, it is an adaptable urban tree but must be given enough room as it can spread. Italian trials indicate that it can even tolerate acid rain.
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