Identified as a popular finish hardwood, alder wood is one of the softest hardwoods on the market after, of course, pine and poplar wood. Owing to its malleable texture, the wood is commonly known as a semi-hardwood. It is interesting to note that this light-brown wood with striking grain patterns came into limelight as a more affordable alternative to cherry wood, and that’s exactly how alder wood got its common name “poor man’s cherry”. Its immense workability, versatility, and finishing made the hardwood achieve worldwide popularity overnight.
Due to its overgrowing demand all across the world, it is not surprising that the wood eventually became known for its high price. Another factor that makes this wood more expensive is the fact that it requires certain finishing techniques, especially in the process of cabinet constructions. This is the reason why most cabinet builders avoid using alder wood and those who use it, only do so for its wonderful visual effects. Ironically, there was a time when cabinet makers would enthusiastically use amber-toned alder wood to give it off remarkable reddish-colored finishing which resembled cherry wood in appearance. Unlike cherry wood, red finishing of alder wood doesn’t darken as it ages, proving to be long-lasting and durable for good.
In addition to cabinets, alder wood is also used for the construction of windows, doors, trims, and beam wraps. The end result is always highly valued as it has superb finishing, making the product supremely modern and impressive. Alder wood is not restricted to one type, luckily, for interested customers, this versatile wood can be found in various forms. In this blog post, we’ll discuss all the common types of alder wood that you must know about.
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1. Red Alder Wood
Red alder wood is extracted from the biggest species of alder tree – red alder. Scientifically known as “Alnus rubra”, red alder is native to western North America which includes famous regions like Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, and British Columbia.
To distinguish red alder trees from their counterparts, it is important to note that they are a broad-leaf tree with a medium size and the ability to grow up to 24 meters. As these trees mature, they develop tapered trunks which grow up to form a huge, round crown.
Red alder wood largely varies in shades, ranging from a light honey color to reddish brown hues. With time, the light color of the wood tends to darken, becoming deep, intense red in shade. There is no apparent distinction between the heartwood and sapwood, as both of them are of the same light, medium, or dark shade. Sometimes, the wood consists of grain which is usually straight and uniform, similar to Birch, only it is redder in looks.
One of the reasons why red alder wood is a common choice among builders and constructors is because of its workability. The wood is easy to cut and shape with hands as well as machine tools. Surprisingly, the wood is soft in nature and hence additional care needs to be shown to avoid damaging the wood. This odorless wood works like Black Cherry; for example, both of them possess great finishing and staining characteristics.
You can find red alder wood in two kinds: clear red alder and knotty red alder. Clear red alder tends to be pricier as compared to the knotty one. Clear red alder also resembles hardwoods like Maple or birch. On the other hand, knotty red alder is an inexpensive choice which is commonly employed for domestic construction. It is also visually similar to utility woods like Aspen and Poplar.
2. Black Alder Wood
Also known as Alnus glutinosa, the black alder is European alder, belonging to the Betulaceae family. This species of the tree originated in Europe, northern Africa, and southwest Asia. The black alder is best cultivated in moist climatic regions, extending into a medium-sized tree with a height up to 30 meters.
Unfortunately, it is a short-lived tree which grows round pale to dark green leaves, tiny catkins, and small fruits. As it is common with other trees thriving near rivers and lakes, typical black alder maintains its leaves longer than trees in drylands. As its Latin name suggests, the leaves tend to be sticky and remain abloom well late into the autumn season.
When first cut, black alder wood is soft and white which eventually turns into pale red and forms striking knots. The timber extracted from a black alder tree is used for making papers, manufacturing fiberboard, and producing energy. When put under water, the wood turns out to be strong and long-lasting to the extent that it can be used for creating sturdy foundations of buildings. On the other hand, the bark of this type of alder is used for dyeing and tanning as it is packed with 16 to 20% of tannic acid. When mixed with iron sulfate, the bark forms an intense black dye, a better alternative of galls and sumach.
3. Green Alder Wood
Referred to as Alnus Viridis, the green alder, like other alder trees, is a deciduous tree. As the name implies, the tree is distinctly known for having glossy green leaves with a light green under surface. The fine-toothed leaves tend to be 3 to 8 cm in length while 2 to 6 cm wide. Like black alder trees, the flowers this tree bear are catkin which emerges in the spring season. This fast-growing tree, in addition to its striking leaves and ball-shaped flowers, is known for brown-colored flowers which are pollinated by wind and pests.
While green alder trees are native to the mountains of southeast Europe and the Alps, they are commonly cultivated near lakes, streams, coasts, and rivers in Canada, Alaska, and Northern Siberia. The green alder is not only lauded for its physical properties; green alder wood is exceedingly useful as it is used in the construction of furniture, manufacturing cabinets and charcoal, and smoking salmons. The oil attained from the wood is beneficial for the treatment of illnesses like nausea, diarrhea, and muscle pain. The inner bark is specifically scraped to be used in different kinds of food items like cakes and salads.
The leaves of the green alder tree boast indisputable benefits as well. For example, the ashes of the burnt tree leaves can be served as a tooth cleaner. These leaves are also heated for skin treatment and some life-altering illnesses.
If you want to make the most of the wood and leaves of the green alder, you can cultivate your very own green alder tree. Keep in mind that for healthy growth, the tree needs proper sunlight, regular watering, and seeds ideally sown in spring. This type of wood gets affected by pests, especially by alder flea beetles. These pests prefer feeding on this tree and lay eggs in spring and summer.
4. White Alder Wood
Also called the California alder and Sierra alder, the white alder is a thin-leafed tree, native to western North America. It happens to be widely distributed in the foothills of northern California and southwestern Oregon. Closely related to the red alder, the white alder is again a medium-sized tree with strong, gray bark which becomes scaly as it ages.
Unlike other alder trees, this type of alder is not cultivated for its wood. In fact, its seeds are sown for its gorgeous white scented flowers and toothed leaves. That being said, its cinnamon-brown wood is hard to ignore and can be employed for a wide variety of uses. For example, in some small Indian tribes, the wood is used for various treatment purposes. Owing to tight, intertwined roots, the wood is incredibly strong and can effectively withstand storms and extreme water flows.
5. Seaside Alder Wood
Having the scientific name – Alnus maritima, the seaside alder is a small tree species native to the United States and is popularly found in regions like Georgia, Oklahoma, Delaware, and Maryland. Also known as the brook alder, the seaside alder is a fast-growing, medium-sized tree, with an overall height of 20 to 30 feet and 16 to 20 feet width. Seaside alder wood is extracted from the seaside alder and is used for manufacturing and construction purposes.
The seaside alder is cultivated in moist soil with full or partial sun exposure. The tree is known for its beautiful yellow-hued flowers with nesting birds. Another distinctive physical feature includes the bark which is light brown to reddish brown in color and is often marked with various spots of colors. The seaside alder exhibits fine-toothed, dark green leaves in summer which changes to yellow-brown in fall. The wood has the ability to tolerate wet sites, flooding, clay soil, and alkaline soil. In other words, it is brawny and hard to destroy.
6. Italian Alder Wood
Having the botanical name Alnus cordata, the Italian alder is a deciduous tree, belonging to the Birch family. The Italian alder has a heart-shaped lead which is 2 to 3 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm wide. Please note that the leaf base is asymmetric while the leaf margin is serrated. In addition to leaves, the tree is admired for its glossy, brownish red branches which tend to blossom catkins and small cone-shaped fruits.
The lower section of the tree tends to be as good as its upper part. The bark is smooth, grayish green with lenticels. The thick bark protects the tree from brush fires and helps in nourishing the entire tree with food and water. The wood attained from the tree is used for many purposes such as making frames and cabinets. Pilings of this wood are also used as foundations of many buildings.
7. Nepalese Alder Wood
Scientifically known as Alnus nepalensis, the Nepalese alder is a huge alder tree which is widely populated in the subtropical highlands of the Himalayas. To be specific, the tree is widely distributed from Pakistan to Nepal to Bhutan to Yunnan and to southwest China. Please note that the ideal growth of tree takes place n warm, volcanic soils. However, it can also grow on sand, clay, and gravel. The tree has the ability to withstand several types of soil and can easily be cultivated in moist regions. The wood obtained from this tree is used for the purposes of firewood in which the wood is brunt quite rapidly and for making charcoals. Like the typical alder tree, Nepalese alder wood is considerably soft and hence used for making light boxes or any other small constructions.
This deciduous tree boasts silver-gray bark that has the ability to reach up to the height of 30 m and 60 m in width. The leaves are simple and slightly toothed in design. Both the male and female flowers (catkins) are produced on this tree in the season of autumn.
In addition to these types, alder wood comes in other notable forms as well, establishing the fact that this solid and knotty wood offers a wide variety to builders and manufacturers.