Betulaceae (birch family) Alnus

Alnus cordata Italian alder

Southern Italy, Corsica
Branchlet of Alnus rhombifolia and A. cordata. John Rawlings, ca. 2005

Canoes of alder, a tree known from antiquity, swam the torrents of the Po river, according to Virgil. Here is how alders came to be growing on the Po. Phaëthon asked permission from Helios, his father, to drive the chariot of the Sun. But Phaëthon drove so dangerously that Zeus had to shoot him down with a thunderbolt. He crashed into the Po, where his sisters standing on the bank were so grieved that they turned into alders.

This alder resembles our local white alder but differs in having leaves that are heart shaped, simple fine teeth, and blotched gray-green bark. About a dozen are along Crothers Way on the south side of Encina Commons, between Arguello Way and Galvez Mall.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005.