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Seaside Alder Alnus maritima


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Seaside Alder, catkins and leaves
credit: Robert H. Mohlenbrock. USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester, PA. Courtesy of USDA NRCS Wetland Science Institute.

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Family: Betulaceae, Birch view all from this family

Description Alnus maritima is endemic to the United States, and is found naturally in three disjunct populations in Oklahoma, Georgia, and in Maryland and Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula. In 2002, the three populations were recognized as subspecies and given the names Alnus maritima subsp. oklahomensis, Alnus maritima subsp. georgiensis, and Alnus maritima subsp. maritima, respectively. While some believe that subspecies maritima is the oldest of the three subspecies and that the other two disjunct populations resulted from some form of long distance dispersal, evidence from morphometric and phylogeographic studies indicates that the Oklahoma population (subsp. oklahomensis) is in fact the most ancestral and that the species probably had a wide, continuous distribution across the United States in the past.

Alnus maritima is considered a large shrub or small tree and is the only autumn-blooming member of its genus native to North America. All other North American alders bloom in the spring. The autumn-blooming phenology is a characteristic that Alnus maritima shares with two old-world Alnus species, Alnus nitida and Alnus nepalensis, which are endemic to southeast Asia. This profound similarity in their timing of anthesis has led to their classification as the only three members in the subgenus Clethropsis.

Habitat Watersides (fresh).

Range Mid-Atlantic, Plains, Southeast.