Here’s a wildlife gardening plea to anyone who has a hedge with a gap, or garden space for an interesting small, slow-growing tree. I planted an Alder Buckthorn in the garden a few years ago, solely because it’s leaves are the key food plant for the caterpillars of the wonderful Brimstone Butterfly (they have started flying through the garden occasionally but I’ve never had caterpillars on it yet!). The more people who plant it, the more likely that colonies of the butterfly will build up! However, the tree has lots of other wildlife benefits– though the flowers are tiny they were covered with a range of bumblebees today, seeking nectar and pollen. The black berries are attractive to birds in the autumn, especially thrushes, and the leaves are beautiful with light shining through. Alder Buckthorn prefers dampish, acidic soil but will tolerate other soils and conditions. The leaves and bark make a good yellow dye. The wood was thought to make the best charcoal for gunpowder, was used to make wooden nails and, due to its even burning quality, was used to make time-fuses!
Conditions: Mild, still, dry morning with light showers building to light rain by evening. Temperature: Max 16- Min 11 c.