Red alder (Alnus rubra) grows best in moist conditions at lower elevations throughout its range. The greatest volume occurs around Washington's Puget Sound and in Northwest Oregon, where trees may reach heights of 120' and diameters of 36".
At first glance, you might mistake red alder for aspen or paper birch because the tree has light gray bark with dark mottling. Older specimens in damp growing conditions feature dark spots of moss. Red alder's leaves also remind you of a birch's, yet they are nearly twice as long, with a furry underside. In the fall, they drop to the ground still green.
The wood of red alder, at 28 lbs. per cubic foot dry, weighs about one third less than red oak. The heartwood and sapwood are both a rich reddish brown with straight, close grain. When red alder is cut in the autumn, the wood color is frequently a golden yellow. Freshly cut logs may stain if not processed within a few weeks after harvest.
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