Hermaphrodite Shrub: April 2021

Some years ago a Dutch lady attending the TDSB nature walks told me an interesting fact about the Alder species. “In the Netherlands, young children learn to count to four by looking at the alder”.

It has 1) last year’s male pollen catkins:

Alder pollen catkin

2) last year’s seed cones (female part):

Alder seed cones

3) this year’s male pollen catkins:

Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)

4) this year’s seed cones:

Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

Male and female parts on the same shrub? It is not uncommon. Many plants do this including spruce, elm, black locust, dogwood and honeysuckle.

The term is “hermaphrodite.” In Greek mythology,  Hermaphroditus was the son of Hermes  and Aphrodite. He was born with a physical body combining male and female sexes. The term “monoecious” is also used. Species like Sumac and Kentucky Coffee Tree are “dioecious” meaning that there are separate male and female plants.

I saw lots of Speckled Alder on this day as I explored the Great Trail near Blackwater.

Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)
Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)

The Great Trail follows a former railway line.

Some botany:

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia)
Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
Scouring Rush
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

It is still early spring here and few birds were about. I did find this Song Sparrow:

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow


The Earth awakes: Already her deep heart
Begins to stir, and send its life abroad.              – Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–72)

Miles Hearn

1 thought on “Hermaphrodite Shrub: April 2021

  1. Lisa Volkov

    Yes, some of those old railway tracks have been turned into wonderful hiking trails in various places. Great stuff! Thanks, Miles!


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