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Specifically mentioned as growing in the Shire and lands around, and also in Dorthonion during the First Age1
Various species in the genus Alna, especially Alnus glutinosa
Approximately 'aw'lder'2
From Old English alor, ultimately from a root meaning 'red-brown'


About this entry:

  • Updated 17 June 2022
  • This entry is complete


Any of a group of short deciduous trees or shrubs related to birches. Alders thrive especially in damp conditions or beside running water, and it was in these conditions that they were generally found in Middle-earth. They are recorded as long ago as the First Age, growing beside Tarn Aeluin, the mountain lake where Barahir and his companions were slain by Orcs (and afterwards the branches of the alders were said to be thick with carrion birds).

Alders also grew in the lands eastward of the Blue Mountains, and there are many references to them from the Third Age. They were found along the Water in the Shire, as well as around the fringes of Midgewater Marshes. We also have poetic accounts that suggest they could be found along the Withywindle in the Old Forest, and also in the valley of Rivendell.



Our only explicit mentions of alders are in widely separated locations: along the Water in the Shire, and around the pool of Tarn Aeluin in Dorthonion long beforehand. These disparate locations, and the fact that the Elves of Rivendell also sang of alders, shows that they must have been found across Middle-earth. Just as Tolkien describes them, alders prefer to grow along streams or beside pools, so they would have been found most commonly in these kinds of environments.


The word alder has a slightly peculiar pronunciation, and might be represented phonetically as something like 'aalder' or 'aolder' (that is, the first syllable is pronounced somewhat like the 'ald' in the word 'bald'). The Old English word for this tree was alor (preserved in the dialect name owler used in some parts of the British Isles). At some stage in its history it acquired an internal -d- that wasn't present in the original word (perhaps under the influence of ald for 'old'), helping to account for its somewhat counterintuitive pronunciation.

See also...

The Water


About this entry:

  • Updated 17 June 2022
  • This entry is complete

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