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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):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

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


  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline 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

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • 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.



Location of Alnus incana (European white alder) at the Arboretum