British Isles and on the Continent.
The tree grows naturally in low-lying marshy places and on the banks of streams an drivers but is not often planted for timber production. In the UK it is usually a small tree, 9-12m high and 0,3-0,6m in diameter, with a clean bole of 6m or so.
For a hardwood, alder is rather soft and weak – comparable to poplar in most of its strength properties – and is not very suitable for bent work.
It seasons well, is not resistant to decay but can be easily treated with preservatives. It works well in all hand and machine operations but cross-grained material tends to tear in planning; sharp, thin-edged tools are essential to obtain a smooth finish.
It is fairly good turnery wood, takes nails well and can be glued, stained and painted satisfactorily.
The wood resembles birch in colour and texture but is softer, and lighter in weight. The cut surface is rather dull and lusterless; it is characterized by lines and streaks like pencil marks, due to the large rays, and scattered rust-coloured flecks (pith flecks). It is pale when first cut, darkening to light reddish-brown; normally there is no visible distinction between sapwood and heartwood. A peculiar feature is that the ends of freshly felled logs assume a characteristic orange-brown colour on exposure to the air. The grain is inclined to be irregular.
The timber is most familiar in the form of utility plywood – for making boxes, crates, cheap furniture, etc. In the solid form, being fairly soft and easily shaped, it is the traditional material for making clog soles; it is also considered one of the more suitable timbers for hat blocks, brush backs, and general turnery, including rollers for the textile industry, formables, and plywood. The poplars are an important source of wood pulp.