Betula Pendula (Silver Birch)
Other Names: Birch Tree, Common Birch, Lady Birch, European White Birch, Weeping Birch
Description: A common, graceful, fast growing deciduous tree with silvery white bark and slender ascending branches. Lower trunk bark is often deeply fissured on mature trees and quite dark and the trunk often develops dark diamond shaped marks in the bark. Twigs at the end of branches often droop down, giving the tree a weeping aspect and are covered in masses of swinging catkins in early spring. The tree is often found in clusters or can be the dominant species for a whole wood.
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 but with a tendance toward light acidic soils and often colonises heaths and moors.
Size: Up to 30m tall, but often between 12m and 20m. Has a canopy spread of between 6m - 8m.
Time to reach full height: 20 to 50 years.
Lifespan: 90 years.