The Silver Birch

1st July 2021

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The silver birch is a striking tree, with its silver-grey trunk and limbs that shed paper-like bark, light canopy and drooping branches, weighed down by yellow-brown and green catkins in April and May each year. It grows to around 30 metres in height and its triangular-shaped, serrated leaves go from light green in the summer to yellow in the autumn before they fall from the tree.

In your garden
The silver birch is a popular garden tree because its deep roots don’t often trouble structures around them, and its sparse canopy offers shade without blocking out too much sunlight. It’s a hardy tree, easily able to handle the UK climate, even in its extremes and it provides the perfect conditions for many grasses, and flowers to grow near and around it.

The silver birch is also a wonderful boost to your garden’s biodiversity, as over three hundred insect species will happily call this tree home. The caterpillars of many species of moth munch away on the tree’s leaves and they in turn are food for the woodpeckers that nest within the tree’s trunk.

The tree’s deep roots draw vital nutrients up from the soil and release them back for other plants and trees around it to benefit from when its leaves fall in the autumn.

Threats your silver birch may face
Birch trees may be tough, but they are susceptible to fungal attack. There are two that specifically like to feed on birch, but as their Latin names are rather long and mean very little to most people I’ll spare you them. All you need to know is that they blight birch leaves with brown spots, and attack growing shoots causing dieback.

A few things you may not know about your birch tree
The birch can be found across the world because it can survive in a broad range of climates. It comes in around 60 different species and can live for up to 200 years given the right environment, and here are a few more things you may not know about your birch tree:

  1. Paper. The bark from birch trees was used for centuries as writing paper, with the oldest recorded at almost two thousand years old.
  2. Hay fever. Pollens from the birch tree family are responsible for 10 to 20% of hay fever cases in the UK, (sniffle).
  3. Firewood. Birch makes good firewood because, even when damp, oils within the wood will help it burn well.
  4. Good enough to drink. Sap from the birch tree is a traditional drink in Russia and some countries in Europe.

To find out more about your silver birch trees, how to best look after them, or for help with their maintenance, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.


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