This week we are taking a look at the enchanting tree ~ Betula pendula, commonly known as Silver Birch. It is truly a sight to behold with it’s striking white bark and delicate catkins in spring. The distinct triangular-shaped green leaves turn yellow in autumn before dropping to the ground to reveal the beautiful bare trunks of white throughout winter. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Lady of the Wood’, in Celtic mythology, silver birch symbolises renewal and purification.
Cultivation & Care
Silver birches are a very easy to grow plant, tolerant of most soils including heavy clay, sandy and nutrient poor soils. Well-drained, loamy soil in a sunny position is ideal, but birches are very adaptable. They will tolerate windy locations, however strong winds will cause the tree to be wind shaped as it grows.
- Known as a pioneer species, meaning it is one of the first trees to grow in an area of bare land and can do so quite quickly and effectively.
- They can be used to improve soil quality as the roots bring up nutrients from deep within the soil which are usually inaccessible. These nutrients then return to the surface soil when the tree leaves drop in autumn.
- Growing silver birch near to a compost heap can aid in the fermentation process.
- Sap ~ The sap of this beautiful tree can be tapped as the sap rises in spring to ferment into a birch wine. The Druids of old are thought to have done this to make a cordial to celebrate the spring equinox.
- Leaves ~ A tea can be made from young leaves using about 5 leaves per cup of water. Let them steep for at least 10 minutes before pouring.
- Provides habitat and food for over 300 species of insects
- Invaluable food source for many species of moth caterpillars including buff-tip and Kentish glory
- Tree dwelling species of bird such as woodpeckers, will often nest inside the trunks of these trees
- The seeds of this tree are eaten by birds such as greenfinches & siskin