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It’s a beautiful, breathtaking sight: the leaves are berry-bright, the air is cool, and the forest nearby is hushed, aside from the sound of water trickling down the rocky slopes. The perfect spot to relax and read a spooky book by the fire, or to work on your tan. No wonder it’s one of the favorite places in the Black Forest.1.5 cm (5⁄8 in) long and one cm broad when mature in late autumn. The seeds are small, 1–2 mm (0.04–0.08 in) long, and light brown with a narrow encircling wing. The grey alder has a shallow root system, and is marked not only by vigorous production of stump suckers, but also by root suckers, especially in the northern parts of its range. The wood resembles that of the black alder (Alnus glutinosa), but is somewhat paler and of little economic value.
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 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). 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. Several species of Lepidoptera use grey alder as a food plant for their caterpillars. See List of Lepidoptera that feed on alders. In the boreal forest area of Canada, A. incana is often associated with black spruce in the forest type termed black spruce–speckled alder.Speckled alder grows throughout Wisconsin in wet soils and full sun to very light shade. It is the namesake of a type of wetland known as "alder thicket".
It is also found in or adjacent to sedge meadows, shrub carr and swamps, along streams and in roadside ditches. It sometimes aggressively colonizes cut-over northern conifer swamps, as appears to be the case in many dense alder stands along small streams in northern Wisconsin. Wisconsin plants of this species belong to the subspecies rugosa and were long known as Alnus rugosa (DuRoi (Spreng.) in the Midwest and that name is likely to be found in many of the botanical books for this area. The largest individual of Alnus incana known in the state of Wisconsin is located in Brown County.A fast-growing and flood-tolerant species that is short-lived, rarely exceeding 40 years. It can be thicket-forming and provides erosion control along watercourses in the mountains. Alders fix nitrogen and thus serve as nutrient-giving pioneers in reclamation projects. Can be used in the urban setting in residential or park settings and under powerlines. (Source: trees.umn.edu)