Traditionally the wood was used for the manufacture of clogs and this industry thrived in Co Wexford up to the early part of the 20th Century. During the Bronze Age alder was uses for warriors' shields. Its timber is resistant to decay when continuously submerged in water and it is recorded that much of the city of Venice rests on alder piles. The timber was also used to make sluice gates and other structures along streams, rivers and canals. However, when exposed alder decays rapidly and is useless as fencing posts. Strangely, alder logs are not recorded as the supporting timbers of our own crannogs.
The timber of alder is dark brown; it is called ‘Irish mahogany' and is prized for wood turning. In folklore alder is classified as an unlucky tree and is to be avoided while on a journey! The ancient Irish did not like felling the alder tree as the wood was white when freshly cut, but then turning dark red, like blood. Alder features in many placenames eg Fearnóg; Ferns in Co Wexford; Glenfarne, Co Leitrim; Farney, Co Monaghan and Killavarnogue – the church of the alders - a graveyard at Cahirciveen, Co Kerry. The tallest tree is 12 metres.
More information at www.treecouncil.ie