Featured in a famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Silver Birch is a tall and elegantly graceful tree. “I pass forth into light – I find myself beneath a weeping birch – most beautiful of forest trees, the Lady of the Woods.”
Betula pendula grows upright and offers smaller branches that become pendulous with age. Despite its elegant look, it is a tough ‘pioneer’ species that will grow in both icy cold and warm climates. The tree features diamond shaped leaves that are a lovely mid-green colour in summer and turn to yellow in autumn. It is deciduous and loses its leaves in winter. In spring, the leaves are interspersed with yellow-brown male catkins that hang from the branches.
The main attraction is the bark that starts off as golden brown but later changes to white and peels off in large flakes. As the tree ages, the bark becomes fissured and develops character, becoming dark grey and almost black at the base. This ornamental peeling bark gives interest all year round and is particularly effective in winter.
Over the centuries man has used the bark to fashion a wealth of useful items from canoes to table cloths, eating utensils and even small rough cabins. Some parts of the tree have been found to have healing properties and are used in traditional medicine. The Silver birch is national tree of Finland.
This elegant tree makes an effective windbreaker when planted in rows. It is also the perfect ornamental tree for large gardens and parks.
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