The Glen is a place of Alders whose shapes populate the valley, darkly red against the doming grey-greens of Willow. Right now the male flowers of the Alders are dangling from all branches and strewn across the ground after the winds; these catkins, named from the dutch word for kitten. Alders produce male and female flowers at once, and on the same tree. The female flowers are more self-contained, deeply red and sticky, and they reside above the pendulous male, to avoid any accidental falling of pollen, that might be rendered useless by any dampness in the weather. In ideal conditions the dangling catkins are tickled by the wind and the yellow pollen is dispersed, flying airborne to land home and dry on the sticky female flowers, which will close up and turn woody, forming into protective cones, housing the burgeoning seeds in tight green capsules then browning, drying, shrinking back to open once again for the big release at the end of the summer. I have been picking up the dainty cones for some time, from the same ground where the catkins fall, they make a lovely slate grey ink.
opening and closing Alder
Alders mature quickly, in 60 years and their dense flesh is resistant to water, creating a timber that doesn’t split, Venice is built on alder piles. The Alder was known as the warrior tree, its flesh is white but turns blood red when cut, and it has traditionally been used in warfare for shields. I’ve been informed that It was the Alders of the Glen that were put to use for trench building timbers in the Great War – [though some accounts tell of it being the Glen Elms used for this practice – perhaps it was both] . Alder charcoal was used in the making of gunpowder in the nearby Powder Mills of Ballincollig. But Alder has been the material of choice for domestic equipment too; for bowls and vessels for safeguarding milk, and for clogs, and Alder has been used as dye material, yielding a swathe of colours, to the deepest of blacks. John Feehan talks of the Irish missionary monks who blackened their eyelids with Alder and sported bald headed tonsures with wild flowing hair down their back…following the fall of the Roman Empire
I discover that the Alder was considered an unlucky tree in old Irish folklore – people used to avoid passing under them …I wonder, if the old wild wood here was an Alder wood this might have been one of the reasons for the archaic naming of this small valley as The Glen of the Spooks. I see their silhouettes as those of distinct characters inhabiting the valley. There are the 3 Alder guardians of the hatch who I certainly wouldn’t mess with.
In the Celtic Tree calendar we are currently in the month of the Alder (Fearn). Fearn rules the fourth moon and runs from 18 March to 14 April approximately.
Fearn is the 3rd letter of the Ogham alphabet and its letter is w