Alnus maritima Nutt.
"The alder, whose fat shadow nourisheth
Each plant set neere to him long flourisheth."
William Browne, ca 1613.
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Since in its narrower sense; this species has a very limited
distribution (including one transplant in my back yard), there is little
economic botany data on this species. Van Steenis has elected to include
Alnus japonica as a synonym of Alnus maritime. He notes that it
has been planted for reafforestation purposes on eroded slopes in the
Philippines. Amerindians had a wide array of uses for alder, for dyestuffs,
insect repellant or insecticide, but mostly for folk medicine. Fernald,
Kinsey, and Rollins (1958) relate that "the inner bark is a possible emergency
food. The young bark and winter buds are popular nibbles with country boys,
not alone for their tolerable flavor, but particularly for the beautiful,
olive-brown saliva produced." Bees use the pollen to rear their spring broods.
None of these uses were specific to Alnus maritime.
According to Hartwell (19671970), the alders are used in folk remedies
for cancers, indurations and/or tumors, especially of the breast, epithelium,
duodenum, esophagus, face, lip, pancreas, pylorus, rectum, throat, tongue, and
uterus. Reported to be astringent and depurative, closely related Alnus
serrulata is a folk remedy for bruises, burns, diarrhea, eye, hematuria,
malaria, poison ivy, scalds, sores, syphilis, and wounds (Duke and Wain, 1981).
Erichsen-Brown (1979) lists many other uses of the alder; e.g. the Potawatomi
Indians made a bark tea for flushing the vagina or to shrink hemorrhoids via
rectal syringe. None of these are specific to Alnus maritima, just
Alnus serrulata is said to contain a sedoheptulose.
Shrub or small tree to 10 m tall; bark light brown to reddish-brown,
occasionally mottled with gray, with small orange-colored lenticels on younger
branches. Twigs reddish-brown and glabrous in winter; buds ovoid, acute, about
6 mm long, with some pale pubescence. Leaves oblong, ovate, or obovate, 7.510
cm long, 3.75 cm wide, dark green above, glandular dotted below; margins
remotely serrulate; tips acuminate or rounded; bases cuneate; petioles 1218 mm
long. Staminate aments green at first, becoming dark orange-brown, 3.756.5 cm
long, pistillate catkins peduncled, 3 mm long at first, green tinged with red
toward tip, enlarging the following spring, becoming broad-ovoid cones, 1.53
cm long; nutlets ovate to obovate, 34 mm long; wings narrow (Brown and Brown,
Reported from the American Center of Diversity, seaside alder, or cvs
thereof, is reported to tolerate frost, poor soil, and some salinity and
waterlogging. Alnus maritima "seems to be more affected by water stress
and must be closer to a reliable source of water than Alnus serrulata to
survive" (Stibolt, 1978). 2n = 28.
In the narrow sense, Alnus maritima occurs on the Delmarva
Peninsula (four counties in Maryland, one in Delaware), two counties near the
Red River in Oklahoma. "Because of its restricted range and susceptibility of
the habitat to alteration by man's activities, Alnus maritima should be
considered as threatened" as proposed in the Report on Endangered and
Threatened Plant Species of the United States." (Stibolt, 1978). The peculiar
disjunction DelmarvaOklahoma has been postulated by Reed (pers. commun.) to
reflect Indian transplant, perhaps of a medicinal species. Perhaps they did
not distinguish the species from other alders that they used.
Probably ranging from Warm Temperate Dry through Moist Forest Life
Zones, seaside alder is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 9.5 to 40
dm, annual temperature of 13. 5 to 18°C, and pH of 6. 1 to 8. 1. Although
the Oklahoma site has the higher annual temperature, it is subject to about the
same number of freezes and thaws as the Delmarva sites. Generally restricted
to damp or wet soils in sunny areas, most often at the edges of ponds, rivers,
or streams. Perhaps due to their N-fixing ability, they can survive on N-poor
soils. Mg levels ranged from 75150 ppm, P2O5 from 514, K2O from 38 to 51,
NO3 from 923, Ca from 5611500, and soluble salts from 89132 ppm. Aspiras
(1981) states that it flourishes only in cooler parts of the Philippines, e.g.
around Baguio at ca 15001800 m, annual precipitation ca 40 dm (164 in.) and
annual temperature ca 18.5°C (64.8°F).
No data uncovered.
Can be harvested for fuel as needed.
Since this is proposed as a threatened or endangered species, there is little
data on its productivity. Perhaps it or its hybrids with other alder species
could equal the annual productivity of other alders now being considered for
biomass or pulp production.
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity of
other Alnus spp. ranges from 5 to 26 MT/ha. Citing literature yields of
58229 kg N/ha, Aspiras noted that Casuarina equisetifolia fixes 1,742
nmoles C2H4/24 hrs/g dry weight, compared to 4,479 for Casuarina
rumphinia, 4,545 for Casuarina montana, 2,267 for Elaeagnus
philippensis, 225 for Alnus maritima, 626 for Alnus
nepalensis, 7,242 for Coriaria intermedia, and only 13 for Myrica
javanica. According to Stibolt, when the nitrate concentration in the soil
reaches a certain level, root nodulation is reduced and no net increase occurs
(Stibolt, 1978). "The degree of nitrogen fixation in alder nodules usually
exceeds that in legume nodules on a per weight basis." (Stibolt, 1978).
Comparing Alnus serrulata, Stibolt found its nodules had higher
nitrogenase activity, while Alnus maritima nodules had higher fixation
rates some of the time. Twenty-four hours after collection, Aluns
serrulata activitiy was reduced while that of Alnus maritima was
retained longer or even increased. In spite of this Stibolt concluded that,
overall "A. serrulata has some advantage in the ability to fix
No data uncovered.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Aspiras, R.B. 1981. Nitrogen fixation in nodulated non-legumes growing
in the Philippines. Canopy International 7(7):35.
- Brown, R.C. and Brown, M.L. 1972. Woody plants of Maryland. Port City Press,
- Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Erichsen-Brown, C. 1979. Use of plants for the past 500 years. Breezy Creeks
Press. Aurora, Canada.
- Fernald, M.L., Kinsey, A.C., and Rollins, R.C. 1958. Edible wild plants of
eastern North America. Rev. Ed. Harper & Bros., New York.
- Hartwell, J.L. 19671971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 3034.
- Stibolt, V.M. 1978, The ecology and systematics of Alnus maritima Muhl.
ex Nutt. (Betulaceae). MS Thesis. Univ. Md. (under C.R. Broome).
- Van Steenis, C.G.G.J. 19551958. Flora Malesiana. P. Noordhoff Ltd.
Last update December 19, 1997