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Alnus nepalensis D. Don

Indian Alder, Nepalese Alder

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Nitrogen-fixing firewood species, the wood of fair quality for use in unexposed situations. It is used to a limited extent in carpentry and house construction and for tea boxes. The timber is rather durable, easily sawed, and seasons well (sp. grav. 0.32–0.37). Locally cultivated by West Java Forest Service to reforest eroded slopes under everwet climate. A fast growing species, suitable for plantation cultivation in tropical uplands (Ramoran and Panot, 1981). The tanniniferous bark is used to deepen the color of Rubia cordifolia.

Folk Medicine

The species is cited in the Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine (from which I borrowed the Illustration) as a useful diuretic to reduce swelling of the leg.


Bark reported to contain 7% tannin.


Large tree 8–15 (to 30) m tall, to 1 m DBH with thick silver gray bark. Twigs glabrescent, ribbed, hardly triangular. Leaves alternate, ovate to oblong, acute or short-acuminate, rounded or cuneate at the base, 7–21 x 4–10 cm; nerves 12–16 pairs, puberulous beneath (glabrescent); vein-axils bearded; midrib and nerves sulcate and glabrous above; petiole strong, 1.5–2 cm long. Male catkins to 10 cm by 3–5 mm, in a terminal panicle to 16 cm. Female inflorescences short, axillary, bearing 3–8 oblong, catkins 10–17 by 6–7 mm. peduncles 3–6 mm long. Nuts obtrapezoid, emarginate, incl. the wing 2 mm through, crowned by the style base (van Steenis, 1955–1958).


Reported from the Indonesia-Indochina and Hindustani Center of Diversity, nepalese alder, or cvs' thereof, is reported to tolerate clay, flooding, fog, gravel, sand, shade, slope, waterlogging, and weeds. It is not tolerant of high winds. (2n = 28)


Native to southeast Asia (Burmese hills, Himalayas, Subtropical China, Indochina). Introduced to Java, India, Hawaii, and the Philippines. I saw a large tree near Kunming in Yunnan China.


In its native habitat it ranges from 300–3,000 m, in Hawaii from 300–1,800 m, growing well in areas with more than 500 mm annual precipitation. Van Steenis (1955–1958) suggests it as an afforestation species on eroded slopes under everwet climatic conditions, growing well between 700–1,800 m. Grows best in deep well-drained loams or loamy soils of alluvial soils, but ranges from gravel to sand to clay. I believe it ranges from Subtropical Dry to Wet Forest Life Zones, with annual rainfall estimated at 5–25 dm, annual temperature 19–23°C, and pH 6–8.


Seeds may be sown in nurserys for transplants or direct seeded. In Burma, seed are broadcast during last years of shifting cultivation. It is a fast grower, even capable of outgrowing sugar ratoon crops. Trees coppice well, but regrowth seems to be season dependent. In Hawaii, in aseasonal situations, the trees coppice year round.


In Himachal Pradesh, India, the trees are lopped every other year for fuel (NAS, 1980a).

Yields and Economics

Diameters may increase at the rate of ca 2 cm/yr. In Hawaii, 26 year old trees were 50 cm in diameter.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity of other Alnus species ranges from 5 to 26 MT/ha. Although used for nitrogen fixation, slope stabilization (both of which help the energy budget of a country), the alder is also used for firewood and might be considered for the generation of electricity. Heat content of Alnus rubra is about 4,600 kcal/kg atid it, a temperate species, may yield 10–21 m3/ha/yr. The wood dries rapidly and burns evenly (Little, 1983).

Biotic Factors

Leaves are sometimes stripped from the tree by coleopterous larvae. Trunk occasionally attacked by borers.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update December 22, 1997