American red alder is the most common hardwood in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, and it the largest of the American alders. It is a fast-growing species and has nitrogen-fixing nodules on its roots that are formed as a result of a beneficial relationship with a species of bacteria. The distribution of red alder extends from southeast Alaska to central coastal California. While the species predominantly grows within 200 km of the Pacific coast, there is a small inland extension of red alder across northern Washington into northernmost Idaho.
American red alder timber is almost white when freshly cut but rapidly changes to a light brown colour with a red or yellow tinge when it is exposed to air.
Heartwood is formed only in very old trees and there is no visible boundary between heartwood and sapwood. The timber is of medium density and low bending strength, making it unsuitable for structural applications. However, it machines, polishes and turns well, making it an ideal timber for furniture, cabinetry and other interior applications.
American red alder is available as both rough and dimension stock; veneer production is limited. While American red alder is readily available in the regions where it grows in the USA, its international availability is mixed. The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is working to increase the export of the timber into markets such as Australia.