Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

The red alder (Alnus rubra) is a deciduous tree native to the U.S. Pacific Northwest that has proven important to both Native Americans and wildlife in the region. Its range extends from southeastern Alaska to southern California, generally within 125 miles of the ocean.

This tree is a pioneer species that establishes rapidly in openings created by forest disturbance, including landslides, logging or fire. It is a host to nitrogen fixing mycorrhizae that lives on its roots. This association allows alder to enrich nitrogen-poor soils which enhances the growth of other trees such as Douglas-fir.

Red alder is one of many trees in the U.S. Pacific Northwest used by Native Americans. The bark was used for dyeing basket material, wood, wool, feathers, human hair, and skin.

The wood is low in pitch, which makes it a good wood for smoking meat. Native Americans also used the bark to treat many health problems from insect bites to lymphatic disorders.

For wildlife, red alder provides an important deciduous component in the predominantly coniferous forests found in the region. Most of the seeds remain on the tree well into the fall and winter months, providing valuable resources for birds, insects, and mammals when other foods are scarce.

Beavers eat the bark and build dams and lodges with the stems. Red alder trees also provide valuable nesting for birds and thermal cover for black-tailed deer and other wildlife.

Western hemlock

Western hemlock thrives in humid areas of the Pacific coast. It is commonly found in temperate rain forests, usually within 100 miles of the coast.

Size

This large conifer can grow up to 200 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter. It is also long-lived, with the oldest known hemlock coming in at 1200 years!

In addition to being well known for its gorgeous wood, hemlock is used for a variety of other purposes. Western hemlock tolerates shade and grows abundantly underneath mature trees, where it provides an important source of food for deer and elk. Older trees are prone to rot, which makes them excellent sources of cavities for birds.

Native Americans on the Pacific coast carved hemlock wood into spoons, combs, roasting spits, and other implements. Hemlock bark is rich in a substance useful for tanning hides.

Foods

Hemlock is also a source of different kinds of food. In addition to offering edible canbium (the spongy cork interior of the bark), a hemlock forest is the preferred place for chanterelles and other edible fungi to grow. The needles can also be chewed or made into tea.

Dungeness crab have been commercially harvested on the West Coast for more than 150 years. Today this fishery is considered the most valuable single species commercial fishery in Oregon with an average value of $32.5 million .

The ocean crab season along the Oregon coast typically begins on December 1st and continues through August, although the majority of the harvest occurs during the first eight weeks of the season.

During the peak of the Dungeness crab harvest fresh crab is readily available at supermarket seafood counters and specialty seafood markets up and down the coast. Click here to find fresh crab near you!

You can also try your hand at harvesting Dungeness crab year round on the Oregon Coast. Crabbing requires minimal gear that is often available for rent in coastal towns and can be done from a boat or dockside. Try it today!

Don’t forget to check the current dates and fees for the South Coast’s Annual Charleston Crab Feed in February. You will be glad you did!