TREES & plants

European white alder

European white alder in late season.

European white alder is a fast-growing tree that may be considered as a street tree. Early spring flowers are interesting, but not really showy. This tree may be difficult to find in local nurseries.

Botanical name: 
Alnus incana
All Common Names: 
European white alder, white alder, gray alder
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen, 
  • Parkway/street
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
40-60 feet
Mature Width: 
20-40 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2, 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil, 
  • Wet soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Persistent fruit/seeds, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Pyramidal
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate, 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Large mammals, 
  • Small mammals, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

This species is best in moist sites and is able to tolerate short-term flooding

Disease, pests, and problems

Potential problems include cankers, alder aphids, and leaf miners.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe.  Commonly found in moist sites.

Bark color and texture 

Light gray bark is smooth, marked with elongated lenticels.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

The oval leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and alternately arranged.  The edges of the leaves are doubly-toothed.  The upper leaf surface is dull green and the lower surface is grayish.  Little color change in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male flowers in dangling catkins, yellow-red, in early spring before leaves appear.  Female flowers small, pink, egg-shaped.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit are cone-like structures.



Alnus incana or European white alder