Last Alder in Leaf

Last Alder in Leaf

Italian Alders are the last Alders to shed their leaves and may still be in leaf in December. All images and text are taken from the book Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Europe published by Reed New Holland in 2017, author Alan Birkett and ISBN 9781921517839.

Italian Alder
Italian Alder leaf

The Italian Alder, native to Italy and Corsica, was introduced in 1820 and is now common in parks, gardens and urban areas. It grows rapidly and is highly tolerant of urban pollution. It has catkins like the other Alders but the female cone-like catkins are bigger than those on the Common and Grey Alder. It has glossy heart-shaped leaves that stay on the tree until November or December. The first photo shows a tree in August, the second shows the glossy leaf. 

Alders have male and female flowers on the same tree. The flowers have no petals – they take the form of catkins. Male catkins are formed in spring, grow upright through the summer and then hang down through the winter until they shed pollen in February/March. Female flowers are pollinated in February/March, grow into round green cone-like catkins in the summer and turn brown and shed seeds in autumn and winter. Female catkins stay on the tree through the winter and the following summer.

Italain Alder male catkin
Italian Alder female catkin
The first photo is a close-up of male catkins in March before shedding pollen. The red anthers are not yet open to release pollen. The second photo shows a woody, cone-like, female catkin, which on the Italian Alder are bigger than on any other Alder. This is a female catkin that has released its seeds in autumn, photographed in the following July.
Spruce or Fir

Spruce or Fir

Spruce or Firs 

There are about 35 species of Spruce worldwide. They are evergreen conifers found right across North America and Eurasia. They form vast forests in northern regions and some, such as the Sitka Spruce, have been widely planted for timber production in Britain. They can easily be confused with Firs but differ in the way the needles are attached to their shoots. They have cones that hang down whereas Firs have cones that stand upThere are about 50 species of Fir worldwide. They are often called Silver Firs. They are evergreen conifers found in upland areas of North America, Eurasia, Central America and North Africa. 

European Silver Fir

The Norway Spruce is a conifer native to Southern Scandinavia, the Alps, the Balkans and Russia and was introduced to Britain around 1500. It is now very common in forests, shelterbelts, parks and gardens. It was the traditional Christmas tree and is probably now the commonest ornamental spruce. It has masses of large cones near the top of the tree. The needles are not spiky.

The European Silver Fir is a conifer native to the Mountains of Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Balkans, was introduced in 1603 and is now common in upland woodlands in the west and north of Britain. It has been planted in large gardens elsewhere. Like all silver firs the leaves tend to look silver when viewed from below because the needles have 2 broad white bands underneath.

Norway Spruce needles

The Norway Spruce has an orange shoot and white lines on the needles. Where the needle joins the shoot is a wooden peg characteristic of all Spruces.

European Silver Fir needles

The European Silver Fir has two white bands underneath and there is a green pad where the needle joins the shoot. This is typical of all Silver Firs and differs from all Spruces, which have a woody peg.