The Universal Herbal: Betula Alnus; Alder.

The Universal Herbal;
or botanical, medical and agricultural dictonary.
Containing an account of All the known Plants in the World, arranged according to the Linnean system. Specifying the uses to which they are or may be applied, whether as food, as medicine, or in the arts and manufactures.
With the best methods of propagation, and the most recent agricultural improvements.
collected from indisputable Authorities.
Adapted to the use of the farmer - the gardener - the husbandman - the botanist - the florist - and country housekeepers in general.
By Thomas Green.
Vol. I
Printed at the Caxton Press by Henri Fisher.
Printer in Ordinary to His Majesty.
Peduncles branched; leaves roundish, wedge-form, very obtuse, glutinous; axils of the veins villose underneath. - Though this species appears generally as a shrub, it will grow to a considerable tree, thirty-five or forty feet in height. It is a native of Europe, from Lapland to Gibraltar, and of Asia, from the White Sea to mount Caucasus, in wet and boggy grounds, and on the banks of rivers; flowering with us in March and April. There are many varieties of which our limits will not admit; but there is a long-leaved alder from America, which grows to thirty feet in height, and merits a place in all plantations. The branches are slender, smooth, numerous, and dark brown, or purple. The leaves are long, and free from the clamminess of the commort sort: they sometimes continue on the tree even in December, and it has then the appearance of an evergreen. The wood of the alder is valuable for piles, pipes, pumps, sluices, and in general for all works intended to be constantly under water. It is said to have been used under the Rialto at Venice; and we are told that the morasses about Ravenna were piled with it, in order to lay the foundations, for building upon. In Flanders and Holland it is raised in abundance for this purpose. It serves also many domestic and rural uses, as for cart-wheels, spinning wheels, milk vessels, bowls, spoons, small trays, trenchers, and other turnery ware, troughs, handles of tools, clogs, pattens, and wooden heels. The roots and knots furnish a beautiful veined wood for cabinets. The Scotch Highlanders often make chairs of it, which are very handsome, and the colour of mahogany. The wood which has lain in bogs is black like ebony. It is very generally planted for coppice wood, to be cut down every ninth or tenth year for poles; and the branches make good charcoal. The bark is used by dyers, tanners, and leather dressers; also by fishermen for their nets. Both this and the young shoots dye yellow, and, with a little copperas, a yellowish gray, very useful in the demi-tints and shadows of flesh ill tapestry. The shoots cut in March will dye a cinnamon colour; and a fine tawny, if they be dried and powdered. The fresh wood yields a dye the colour of rappee snuff. The catkins dye green. The bark is used as a basis for blacks: an ounce of it dried and powdered, boiled in three quarters of a pint of water, with an equal quantity of log: wood, with solution of copper, tin, and bismuth, six grains of each, and two drops of solution of iron vitriol, will dye a strong deep boue de Paris. The leaves have been sometimes employed in tanning leather. The Laplanders chew the bark, and dye their leather garments red with their saliva. The whole tree is very astringent. Motherby says, a decoction of the bark of the alder has been often known to cure agues, and is frequently used by country people, to repel inflammatory tumors in the throat, and parts adjacent. According to Tournefort, the peasants on the Alps are frequently cured of rheumatic complaints, by being covered with bags full of the heated leaves. The bark possesses a considerable degree of astringency, and a decoction of it may be advantageously employed to bathe swellings and inflammations. It dyes woollen of a reddish colour, and, with the addition of copperas, black. A late popular writer very gravely assures us, that if the leaves are strewed in a chamber infested with fleas, they will all immediately come together upon them, and be so entangled by the clamminess on their surface, that they may be easily destroyed. But surely it would be an equally effectual method of getting rid of these troublesome bed-fellows, to apply a decoction of the leaves, as a celebrated quack advised the purchasers of his nostrum to do with it; namely, to catch them by the skin of the neck, which must of course compel them to gape, and then pour a little of the liquid down their throats. The alder makes good hedges by the sides of streams and ditches, and in all wet morassy soils, and serves to keep up the banks: but if it be planted in a low meadow, it is said that the ground surrounding it will become boggy; whereas if ash be planted, the roots of which penetrate a great way, and run near thesurface, the ground will become firm and dry. The shade of alder seems to be no material impediment to the growth of grass. The boughs cut in summer, spread over the land, and left during the winter to rot, are found to answer as a manure; clearing the ground in March of the undecayed parts, and then ploughing it. The fresh-gathered leaves are covered with a glutinous liquor, in which fleas are said to entangle themselves, as birds do in lime. Linneus says, that horses, cows, sheep, and goats, eat it, but that swine refuse it. The tongues of horses feeding upon it are turned black, and it is supposed by some persons not to be wholesome for them. The alder delighting in a very moist soil, where few other trees will thrive, is a great improvement to such lands. It is propagated by layers, cuttings, or truncheons about three feet in length. The best time for planting truncheons is in February, or the beginning of March; they should be sharpened at one end, and the ground should he loosened with an iron crow before they are thrust into it, that the bark may not be torn off. They must be planted at least two feet deep, to prevent their being blown out of the ground by strong winds, after they have made their shoots. The plantations should be cleared at first of tall weeds; but when the trees have made good heads, they will require no farther care. If you raise them by layers, this operation must be performed in October, and by the October following they will have taken root sufficiently to be transplanted. They should be set at least a foot and a half deep in the ground; and their tops must be cut off to about nine inches above the surface, which will occasion them to shoot out many branches. In planting alders for coppices, it is much better to raise them from young trees than from truncheons. To obtain a quantity of these plant-suckers, and head them down for stools, lay the shoots the succeeding autumn, and in twelve months they will have taken root; then remove and plant them in rows; in one or two years, they may be planted where they are to remain. If the coppice is to be on boggy or watery ground, they may be removed from the nursery, and planted three feet asunder in holes previously prepared. There they may stand six or seven years, when half the trees may be taken away, and the rest cut down for stools. Every ninth or tenth year will afford a fall for poles.

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