What plant is that?

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Speckled Alder with gall
Photo credit: Garry Plunkett

January's mystery plant is a common wetland shrub. This photo is a winter-time image of one having a serious bad hair day. There's no flower here, but rather a gall formation specific to the plant.

This bad case of the "frizzies" is on an Alder, as evidenced by the "speckled" bark on this "common wetland shrub." The gall formation is the clencher, being the alder tongue gall (Taphrina amentorum) which results from a fungus that infects the female catkin scales. They become deformed and grow to several times their normal size, tongue-like and irregularly shaped, green then orange to red, and finally brown.

It’s. . .

Botanical Name:
Alnus incana ssp. rugosa
Common Name:
  Speckled Alder
  Betulaceae (Birch Family)
  Clump-forming shrub usually found in wet areas along streams, lakes and in swamps.

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