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Tag Alder

Alnus serrulata

Height: The tag alder tree is relatively small, and it only reaches about 10 to 20 feet in height; it often grows as a multi-trunked shrub  

Evergreen/Deciduous: Evergreen  

Lifespan: Less than 100 years

Fall Foliage: Green  

Range: Most of the eastern and southern United States, except for Florida; also found in a small area west of the Mississippi River from Texas to Missouri  

Typical Habitat: Predominately riparian areas and wetlands; may be found farther from water in the coastal plain  

tag alder tree leaf

The Tag Alder: Well-Suited for Life in Difficult Areas

Part of the reason tag alder can be so common in some areas is that it’s uniquely well-suited for life along streams and in wetlands.

There are multiple reasons for this, including the tree’s ability to tolerate damp and even periodically flooded soils – an obvious requirement for trees living at the bottom of watersheds. The tree also produces shoots that arise from the root system, which enables it to spread in suitable areas.  

But perhaps most importantly, tag alder is a nitrogen-fixing species, like eastern redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) and black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia). This means that the tree draws nitrogen from the air and store it in their root systems. This enables the trees to live in areas with poor soils – such as near wetlands.   

Tag Alder Identification: Tips & Tricks

Those familiar with the species can recognize tag alder at a glance – and location is essentially all that it takes at times. Indeed, tag alder trees can form long “hedges” along the banks or rivers and streams, running uninterrupted for miles at times. Throw in the shrub-like growth habit and leaf shape and it’s a done deal.

But for those unfamiliar with the species, simply look for the tree’s fruit, which looks like small pinecones when mature. Fortunately, the fruit are remarkably persistent, and often remain on the tree long after they’ve served their purpose.

The Tag Alder Tree: Additional Information

Want to dig deeper into the world of the tag alder? These resources will provide a great starting point:

  • Missouri Botanical Garden: Primarily basic information about the species, but it also provides some horticultural notes.    
  • North Carolina State Extension: Basic information about the tag alder, presented in an easy-to-consult table form.
  • Carolina Nature: Relatively little info, but we’ve included this resource because it has a ton of high-quality photos.

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