Specification & Spread

Alder inflorescences (alder «cones») — fructus alni
Grey alder — alnus incana (l.) Moench
European alder (black) — alnus glutinosa (l.) Gaertn.
Birch family — betulaceae
Other names: Alnus incana, volha, eller, ooler, Irish mahogany, sticky alder, speckled alder.
Both species are tall shrubs or small trees up to 20 m tall.
It is distinguished by the shape and edge of the leaves, the colour of the bark and the shape of the seeds: grey alder has sessile «cones», and European alder – on the stalks.
Grey alder 
The grey alder bark is smooth and silvery grey.
The leaves are alternate, ovate or elliptical, cuneate and narrow the top, sometimes acuminate, sharply bicontelate along the edge, dark green above, grey-green below, pubescent, especially along the veins and non-adhesive.
European alder 
The alder has a bark of dark brown colour with cracks. The young branches are smooth, often sticky and reddish-brown. The leaves are broadly obovate or nearly round, with a dulled or notched tip and a toothed margin. The young leaves are shiny, sticky, and fully developed. From above it is dark green and bare. Below  it is light green and almost bare.
The flower are dioecious: staminate – in long goslings, pistillate – in short oval inflorescences. The perianth is reduced.
The fruit is a small nut with a narrow membranous spathe.
Alder blossoms in early spring before leafing, in March – April.
The green scales covering the female flowers thrive to autumn, become woody, turn black and form inflorescences – the so-called alder «cones» that hang on the tree all winter.
The fruits ripen in September – October.
Spreading. Grey alder and European alder grow in the forest and forest-steppe zones of the European part of the country, in the Urals, go to Western Siberia. There are separate locations in the Caucasus.
Habitat. It also grows on forest edges, rivers, streams, ravines, swamp outskirts. Grey alder forms shrub thickets. Both species are moisture-loving plants.


Alder «cones» contain

  • 6-30% of tannins, which include: alnatannins and 2-3% of gallotannin, about 4% of gallic acid.
  • ellagic acid,
  • triterpenoids,
  • steroids,
  • fatty oil (up to 16%),
  • higher fatty acids and
  • higher aliphatic alcohols.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The raw materials are collected in the autumn-winter period (until the beginning of March). The lower short branches, together with the infructescences, are cut with secateurs or shake off the trees. «Cones» are clearly visible in the snow.
Security measures. It is not allowed to break branches and tear off the alder infructescences from it.
Drying. It is dried in attics or under sheds, as well as in air dryers. The raw material is laid out in a thin layer, occasionally mixing.
Storage. It is stored in dry and well-ventilated areas.

External signs of raw materials

Whole raw materials
The stems are ovoid or oblong, several in number on the common stalk or solitary, with or without peduncles, with scales and fruits. Numerous diadromous scales with a thickened, slightly lobed outer edge are located on the solid axis of the stems.
In the axils of scales there are single-seeded dipteran oblate fruits – nuts. The length of the common stalk to the lower stem is up to 15 mm, the length of the stem is up to 20 mm, and the diameter is up to 13 mm.
The colour of the stem and twigs is dark brown or dark brown. The smell is weak. The taste is astringent.
Milled raw materials 
The pieces of stems, scales, axes of infructescences of various shapes and fruits are passing through a sieve with holes 10 mm in diameter. The colour is from light brown to dark brown. The smell is weak. The taste is astringent.

Properties and application

Alder «cones» have astringent, anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties.
The infusion of alder inflorescences is prescribed for acute and chronic enterocolitis, dysentery as an adjunct in the treatment with antibiotics and sulfonamides. The infusion of alder «cones» helps to reduce fermentation and putrefying processes in chronic enterocolitis, accompanied by diarrhea. The quick and sustained effect of the treatment provides a natural combination of tannin, triterpene compounds and flavonoids in alder inflorescences.


  • Individual intolerance (allergies);
  • pregnancy;
  • lactation period.