Sitka alder, Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata (Regel) A& D. Love.  Members of this genus provide a generous resource of firewood in the Northwest.  The bark and wood chips are preferred over mesquite for smoking fish, especially salmon.  The alder forest on the left is at Botanical Beach, near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island.  This coastal dwelling tree ranges from California to Alaska.  The other species A. viridis ssp. crispa (Ait.) Turrill, American Green Alder grows in the same range. (Back)
Smoking Meat with Alder: Wood chips are soaked in water then placed on coals or charcoal to smoke meat.  In 1961, I saw over 100 Native Americans smoking fish, moose and caribou for winter storage along a 10 mile stretch of the Denali Highway in Alaska.  Hunting rule then was if a European (meaning white man) hunter made a kill, he/she was obliged to give much of the meat to the First People who preserved it for winter food.    Fish were flayed open hung from wood weirs or sticks above the smoldering fire until smoked and dry.

USES:  Ashes of alder were mixed with tobacco and smoked.  In hardwood poor areas of the west, alder burns slower than pine and is a suitable home heating fuel.  the bark may be soaked in water to make a orange to rust dye. 

Sweat Lodge floors were often alder leaf covered and switches of alder were used for applying water to the body in the sweat lodge.              

 Native American Medicine:  Ashes of wood used with chewing stick to clean teeth.  Cones of sub species sinuata are used for medicine as are other alder species.  Spring catkins were smashed to pulp and eaten as a cathartic. The bark was sometimes mixed with other plants in decoction and used as a tonic.  The decoction of the female catkins used in decoction to treat gonorrhea.   A poultice of leaves used on skin wounds and skin infections.  In the Okanagan areao fo Washington and British Columbia, Okanagon-Colville First People used an infusion of new shoots, new plant tops to increase appetite in children.  A decoction of the inner bark said to reduce fevers (Upper Tanana).