Sitka Alder


Secwepemc name: kukwl7ellp

“Green Alder,” or Sitka Alder.  Mary Thomas noted that a mild solution of alder bark can be drunk as a beverage tea, which is also a good tonic for general indisposition. Alder bark is a good source of dye. The colours produced range from orange to reddish-brown to blackish. Mary Thomas said that the bark, which was taken when the tree was dormant, was boiled in water on the stove, and the material to be dyed was steeped in the solution. Additionally, she described a method her late sister used to colour cherry bark black for basket decoration: the rolls of cherry bark were inserted into a cut made in the top of a large, growing alder root, underneath the rolled-back bark. The bark was replaced, and the root covered up with soil and left for a month or more. The cherry bark, coloured deep black, was then removed, dried and stored for future use.

Mary Thomas also noted that dye made from alder bark could be mixed with oil and used as a paint for traditional dancers. Many people value alder bark in solution as a washing medicine for cuts and wounds, including for horses. Mary Thomas said that alder bark can be boiled on the stove as a vaporizer. The solution thus obtained can also be used as a wash for skin sores and infections, as a dye, and as a beverage tea. It tastes quite mild, and can be drunk to replace any other beverage if one is not feeling well. For treating ailments such as colds, it can be made stronger by boiling the bark more. Mary Thomas also knew of medicinal uses for the leaves of alder. The crushed leaves would relieve pain and swelling, so that, for example, fresh or dried leaves were used to make a poultice for mothers with sore breasts. Also, sore feet could be soaked in a tea of the leaves. Alder bark is eaten by beavers.

Ecological requirements: Is a pioneer species, often growing in disturbed areas. Adds nitrogen to soil.