Celtic Month of Alder

This is the second in the Celtic Tree Calendar series.  The modern Celtic Tree Calendar is based on the idea that each of the letters in the ancient Celtic Ogham alphabet corresponds to a tree. The calendar consists of 13 lunar divisions with a different tree representing each 28 day period.

alder1 - Celtic Month of Alder
Alder Cones & Catkins

Wishing You a Happy Faern!

Welcome to the Celtic month of Alder (Alnus).  Known as Faern by the Celts (the letter F in the Ogham alphabet), it begins on March 18 and ends on April 14.

There are 35 species of Alder.  In Maine, Speckled Alder (Alnus incana) is the native species.  It is speckled with prominent white pores, called lenticels, along its branches.  The flower is a purplish-red catkin, and the fruit is a woody brown cone, which persists through the winter.

alder 2 - Celtic Month of Alder
Alder Cones & Flowers

A member of the Birch family, Alder is known as a pioneer species.  This fast growing small tree or large shrub (10-25’ tall) is one of the first plants on the scene.  With its ability to provide additional nitrogen to successional species, it helps to establish a woodland area.

Alders love cool, wet sites, and grow by streams, ponds, and rivers.  Their roots do not rot, in fact they turn hard as stone when exposed to water, making them wonderful plants for erosion control.  This extraordinarily strong wood is also used for bridge footings.

 A valuable wildlife plant, Alder serves as a host plant for several butterflies including the White Admiral.   Alder also provides food, and cover to a variety of animals and birds including beavers, songbirds, and the American Woodcock.

american white admiral - Celtic Month of Alder
American White Admiral Butterfly

Alder bark is rich in tannin and has been used for mouthwash, as well as a skin tonic to soothe irritation and inflammation.   Historically, Indigenous Americans mixed the root bark with molasses and used it for toothaches.

Alder is known as the “Alder King” or “Elf King” and is the protector (especially of the waters) and warrior of hidden realms.  Alder’s strength helps us face the things we are avoiding.

Aligned with the element of air, Alder is associated with new beginnings, healing, breath, inner confidence, and determination.  

Several dyes are produced from Alder – brown from the twigs, red from the bark, and green from the flowers.  To blend in with the forest, it is said that Robinhood and his Merry Men dyed their clothes green using Alder flowers.

How will you to incorporate Alder into your life this month?

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