The alchemy of Red Alder


#1

I just read a beautiful posting about Red Alder on the Radical Botany website.

I was struck by the description of Red Alder as a forest healer, an essential part of the Cascadian forest ecosystem without which native forests cannot recover after a disturbance such as fire, landslide, or logging. Red Alder is one of the first trees to grow back, and because it brings damaged soils back to life through nitrogen-fixing, over the 50 to 100 years of its lifespan it first allows the natural succession of small herbaceous plants like ferns and sedges, then understory plants like elderberry and Indian plum, and then finally large conifers and deciduous trees.

Tragically, forest managers used to destroy red alder as a “weed” between crops of Doug fir to be harvested for lumber, but when they destroyed the alder, the Doug fir would not want to grow back.

Anyway, the essay made me think about Red Alder as a partner in Rewilding. As rewilders, one of our primary goals is to figure out how to heal the forest, to enrich the soil after the ravages of civilization and allow the succession growth and return of real culture and community, both plant-based, and people and animal-based.