The Use of Alder Cones

Written by margaret mills
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The Use of Alder Cones
Small cones from the alder tree have numerous uses. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Alder is a deciduous tree, shedding its leaves in the fall. It is a common tree, and North America has numerous species. The leaves are dark green and oval, and it bears male catkins and female flowers. The flowers develop into small, 2 to 2 1/2 centimetre cones. While the bark and leaves of alder have multiple uses in crafts, medicine and even food preparation, the small, delicate cones also have their own properties and uses.

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Alder Cones in Aquariums

Some aquarium owners like to add the cones to the tank water. Alder cones can be purchased in stores that sell supplies for aquariums. Just a few cones release tannins into the aquarium water and contribute antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Alder cones also lower the pH in the tank, and make a healthier environment for various aquatic species. The cones add a tea-coloured tint to the water, which appeals to some owners.

Alder Cones in Crafts

The tiny, delicate dried alder cones are ideal for floral arrangements and wreaths. Dried wreaths and arrangements in baskets or bouquets often include a variety of dried cones, including alder cones, in addition to dried grasses, mosses and boughs. Alder cones can be collected and sold commercially to those who make wreaths, floral arrangements and potpourri. Native Americans also used the delicate cones as jewellery. Modern jewellery makers usually plate the cones with silver or other metal to create delicate earrings or charms for bracelets.

Medicinal Uses of Alder Cones

All parts of the alder can be used medicinally, but the cones are rarely used by modern herbalists. The Native Americans used mostly the bark and leaves to treat various ailments of the digestive system and skin. A tea or tincture of the cones was said to have astringent properties. Some chewed the cones to ease stomach problems. The cones are sometimes used by modern herbalists to make a tincture promoted to have antiseptic properties.

Additional Uses of Adler Cones

Pacific Northwest Native Americans used alder wood almost exclusively to smoke salmon. Alder cones are sometimes used as an alternative to hickory or oak to smoke meat as well. Native Americans used alder bark as a red dye for fibre, baskets and porcupine quills. Modern spinners and weavers who dye their own fibres with natural materials use both the bark and the cones as dye.

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