Hey, the leaves come off and the interesting stuff can be seen. Give me a guess on this one!
These ‘cones’ are the strobiles of an alder shrub. Strobiles are equivalent to a flower on this woody plant—they will make the seeds. The same shrub also bears catkins – the pollen producing part.
I’ve had a bit of trouble identifying this one, even with Miz Flora’s help, but we think it’s Hazel Alder, Alnus serrulata, because the catkins were green in the fall, it is a shrub and grows in the eastern US.
The only part not matching was our leaves have alternate veins, and several sources say they should have pinnate veins (across from each other) YET, in one picture the various leaves shown were some of each, on the same plant. Here’s a shot of our leaf, so you can see the veins.
Suffice to say, identifying plant species is tricky! Some are introduced and some are native to the US. Alders can be trees or shrubs, but all live close to water, grow rapidly and are short-lived.