Broken branch showing red weathered bark
Red Alder leaf, showing the typical discolouration caused by ozone
A russet dye can be made from a decoction of the bark and was used by Native Americans to dye fishing nets so as to make them less visible underwater.
Traditional medicine usage
Native Americans used red alder bark (Alnus rubra) to treat poison oak, insect bites, and skin irritations. Blackfeet Indians used an infusion made from the bark of red alder to treat lymphatic disorders and tuberculosis. Recent clinical studies have verified that red alder contains betulin and lupeol, compounds shown to be effective against a variety of tumors.
Alnus rubra is an important early colonizer of disturbed forests and riparian areas mainly because of its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. This self-fertilizing trait allows red alder to grow rapidly, and makes it effective in covering disturbed and/or degraded land, such as mine spoils. Alder leaves, shed in the fall, decay readily to form a nitrogen-enriched humus. Red alder is occasionally used as a rotation crop to discourage the conifer root pathogen Phellinus weirii (Laminated root rot).
Alnus rubra are occasionally planted as ornamental trees and will do well in Swales, riparian areas, or on stream banks, in light-textured soils that drain well. Red alder does not thrive in heavy, wet clay soils. If planted domestically, alders should be planted well away from drainpipes, sewage pipes, and water lines, as the roots may invade and clog the lines .
Alder lumber is not considered to be a durable option for outdoor applications,maple, walnut and ash, historically alder has not been considered of high value for timber. However it is now becoming one of the more popular hardwood alternatives as it is economically priced compared to many other hardwoods. In the world of musical instrument construction, red alder is valued by some electric guitar / electric bass builders for its balanced tonality. Alder is frequently used by Native Americans for making masks, bowls, tool handles, and other small goods.
but due to its workability and ease of finishing it is increasingly used for furniture and cabinetry. Because it is softer than other popular hardwoods such as
The appearance of alder lumber ranges from white through pinkish to light brown, has a relatively soft texture, minimal grain, and has medium luster. It is easily worked, glues well, and takes a good finish.
In fish smoking
Because of its oily smoke, A. rubra is the wood of choice for smoking salmon.
As an environmental indicator
Additionally, red alder is often used by scientists as a biomonitoring organism to locate areas prone to ozone pollution, as the leaves react to the presence of high ozone levels by developing red to brown or purple discolorations.