Content Detail

Speckled alder is a smaller, multi-stemmed and sometimes thicket forming tree that is appropriate for planting under power lines. Early spring flowers are interesting, but not showy. This tree may be difficult to find in local nurseries.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

  • Family (English) Birch
  • Family (botanic) Betulaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks, Under utility lines
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Mature height 15-25 feet
  • Mature width 15-25 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Browsers, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Speckled alder grows 15 to 25 feet tall and wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Canada and northeastern United States, including Illinois. C-Value: 8

Attracts birds & butterflies:

Browsers, small mammals, and songbirds find it interesting. 

Leaf description:

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

Flower description:

Flowers are monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are produced on the same tree. Male flowers appear in dangling catkins and are yellow-red in early spring before leaves appear while female flowers are small, pink, and egg-shaped.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruit are cone-like structures composed of winged seeds. In the fall they change to reddish-brown and add winter interest for both humans and birds.

Plant Care:

Speckled alder grows best in full sun to part shade in moist sites and is able to tolerate short-term flooding.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

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


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