Alder is an attractive, low-growing tree common along streams. Its leaves are toothed and often folded inward along the central leaf vein. Alder has small persistent cones which are actually remains of the staminate flower clusters. These remain on the branches after the leaves have fallen. Alder almost always has many slender trunks.
"Alnus" is the ancient Latin name for the tree, and "incana" is Latin for "gray or hairy".
Alnus incana is a light-demanding, fast-growing tree that grows well on poorer soils. In central Europe, it is a colonist of alluvial land alongside mountain brooks and streams, occurring at elevations up to 1500 metres. However, it does not require moist soil, and will also colonize screes and shallow stony slopes. In the northern part of its range, it is a common tree species at sea level in forests, abandoned fields and on lakeshores. It is sometimes used for afforestation on non-fertile soils which it enriches by means of nitrogen fixing bacteria in its root nodules. Several species of Lepidoptera use Grey Alder as a food plant for their caterpillars. In the Boreal forest area of Canada, A. incana is often associated with Black Spruce in the forest type termed Black Spruce/Speckled Alder.