Top Photo: The pollen flies as I tap hazel alder’s male catkins in our wetlands.

February is the time of year hazel alder blooms in our wetland. The plants are monoecious, having both male and female flowers on the same plant. The wine-red female flowers stand above the amber male catkins and are pollinated via the wind, or through the tap of a naturalist’s finger.

Female flowers above male catkins.
Release the pollen.

The shrub is also called smooth alder, common alder, tag alder, or Alnus serrulata in Latin terms. It’s most often encountered near water: streams, rivers, lakes, ponds.

Female flowers.

The seeds produced by the plant are eaten by a variety of birds and small mammals. The leaves or twigs are browsed on by deer and the shrubs themselves provide shelter and nesting locations for many species of passerines. I often associate the shrub with Tyrannus tyrannus, eastern kingbird. It’s a classic image, a kingbird perched atop a pond-side alder in late April or early May.

Eastern kingbird.

Our alders grow on the north side of the wetlands in Explore the Wild. As mentioned, they’re in bloom now.

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