Alder, though not a conifer, bears small, dark cones at this time of year. Alders thrive in damp places. Able to resist rotting, most of Venice rests on Alder piles but Alder wood also makes good charcoal for Gunpowder, probably why there is a lot in my home village (Catsfield, Sussex) where Gunpowder was a prominent industry. Having catkins from February, it provides early nectar, and several caterpillars of moths feed on it. It has a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria, which it provides with sugar through photosyntheses, while the bacteria provides it with nitrogen. This nitrogen also fertilises the surrounding plants. Lining many rivers, Alder roots provide favourite nesting places for Otters! Conditions: Deep, and crisp and even frost, and glorious sun. Temperature: Min 2- Max 8C.