Betula pubescens (Downy Birch)
Other Names: Common Birch, Moor Birch, White Birch, Hairy Birch
Description: A common species and very similar to the Silver Birch yet with a tendency towards slightly wetter habitats. The bark of older trees is brown or grayish-white and rarely has a fissured lower trunk or diamond shaped marks found on the Silver Birch. The twigs are usually held upright giving the tree a more rounded and less weeping crown.
Uses: Birch wood is hard and tough which makes it ideal for making furniture, handles for tools and toys but is of little commercial value in the UK as the trees do not grow a large as they do elsewhere. However, the Birch is an excellent wood for burning and is in high demand for log burning stoves. The bark is also sometimes used for tanning leather.
Conservation Value: As the canopy of birch trees is very thin, allowing lots of light to pass through, birch woods provide a perfect habitat for some rarer species such as English Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Wood Sorrel and Violets to grow. The tree provides habitat for over 300 different insect species which in turn provide food for many predator species. This in turn creates a strong food chain and makes the Silver Birch a vital conservation tree. Birch woodlands are also associated with many types of fungi including Birch Milk Cap, Birch Brittlegill and the Birch Knight. Their abundant seeds are eaten by a wide range of bird species.
Preferred Locations: Chalk clay, sand and loam soils and like moist but well drained locations. Often found in wetter, peatier locations than Silver Birch.
Size: Rarely exceeding 24m with a canopy spread of 4-8m.
Time to reach full height: 20 to 50 years.
Lifespan: 90 years.