Silver Birch Tree Facts and Information
- Latin name: Betula pendula
- Native words: Old Irish () Scots Gaelic (beithe) Old English (birce) Welsh (bedwen) eastern Celtic ()
- Ogham sign: B
- Height when mature: 33m 105 ft
- Height after 10 years: 5-6m 16-20ft
Silver Birch Botanical Description:
Silver Birch Trees are fast growing, attractive trees. Their trunks are pale in colour with black notches that create deep, diamond shaped fissures along the white bark.
Birch is a pioneer species, which is usually one of the first to colonise a site. It's especially good at taking over old industrial locations and is primarily associated with wet, boggy ground.
It's one of the shortest-lived native trees only living between 40-60 years and when young the bark appears redder, slowly changing white as the tree matures. Bright green leaves emerge in April from red-purple buds and are pointed in an ‘arrowhead’ style and noticeably toothed. The leaves start turning yellow in autumn giving a spectacular display. With the combination of the golden yellow and orange hues the stand out show looks like the tree is on fire!
The birch is a monoecious tree meaning both male and female flowers are present on the same tree. The male catkins are yellow in colour and usually hang in groups of two compared to the short, bright green female catkins.
Birches have a symbiotic relationship with fungi and often develop large bracket fungi on their trunk, called Polypores. Birch also has a close relationship with Scots Pine, growing alongside them in Caledonian forests. With Scots Pine, Birch is our oldest British native tree; after the Ice Age, they were the first to spread over the countryside.
Silver Birch is one of two native birches, the other being Downy Birch, Betula pubescens. Many exotic species of birch are planted in urban settings throughout the UK, including the Himalayan Paper Birch, Betula utilis. The bark of which peels away in large strips. For more information check out our Silver Birch Youtube video here!
Silver Birch Natural History and Ancient Wisdom:
On the Isle of Colonsay in the Western Isles of Scotland, Birch boughs were hung over cradles to protect them from fairies. In Welsh lore, birches were associated with love.
In Siberia, tribal peoples, such as the Khanty still use birch bark to make containers for food, and peel off strips of the under bark to use as tinder for fires; the tree is not harmed. They also communicate through runic-like symbols cut into birch trunks as messages for other passing that way; a living signpost! Interestingly, the word birch is thought to have derived from the Sanskrit word 'bhurga' meaning a 'tree whose bark is used to write upon'.
The Silver Birch is, in fact, the national tree of Finland.
In many parts of Northern Europe, birch sap is a traditional drink and main ingredient in birch beer. It is usually consumed fresh or fermented and can be harvested throughout only one month in year. Other names for the drink are birch water and birch juice.
The Birch tree is the first lunar month in the Celtic Tree Calendar and is the tree zodiac sign for people born between December 24th and January 20th. The birch tree is associated with growth, rebirth and renewal and those born under the sign are said to be ambitious and inspiring. Read more about the Birch tree symbolism and meaning.
Silver Birch Place Names in the UK:
- Birkenhead (Wirral) - ‘headland where birch grows’
- Birchwood (Cheshire)
- Berkesdon (Hertfordshire) - ‘birch valley’
- Birkdale (Lancashire) - ‘birch valley’
- Birchington (Kent)
- Much & Little Birch (Herefordshire)
- Birchanger (Essex) - ‘birch wood on a slope’
Silver Birch Wildlife Rating:
Food plant of the rare Camberwell Beauty butterfly and the Kentish Glory and Lobster Moths. Many insect species live upon the birch.
A favourite nesting tree for the uncommon Lesser Spotted woodpecker, Silver Birch is used by hundreds of species insects, especially when the tree is dead but remains standing, which often occurs with Birch.
In spring, many woodland birds flit from birch to birch finding caterpillars for their young. Siskins feed on the seeds in winter. Fly Agaric, the famous (and very poisonous!) toadstool with its red cap and white spots, develop under birch even in gardens.
Silver Birch Tree Good / Bad Points:
- Grows very quickly and easily.
- It does not have a dense crown and allows light through.
- Its bark and golden autumn leaves are very attractive.
- It is also tolerant of heavy and damp soil, (but prefers well-drained) and is very hardy.
- Suitable for all sizes of gardens and for sites where mature woodland is required quickly.
- The seed is very fertile and a mature Birch can produce hundreds of viable tiny seeds which germinate across the garden.
Send a Silver Birch Tree
Ever thought of sending a tree as a gift? Here at Tree2mydoor, we've been delivering trees as gifts for over 15 years all over the UK and Ireland.
Our Silver Birch Tree Gift is one of the most popular ones and is perfect for 25th wedding anniversaries where it will be cherished for years to come. For other sapling gift ideas see our Celtic Tree Calendar