The WALA Plant Library

Synonyms for Birch: the European white birch, silver birch, common birch, paper birch
Scientific Name: Betula pendula Roth
Family: Betulaceae (birch trees)


The birch, an aristocrat among trees: its slender form wrapped in a silver-white bark, it is tall and graceful and its branches hang elegantly in gently drooping arches. The wind plays softly among the branches and moves the flexible twigs like waving hair. Epitomising the spring, with the soft green of its small diamond-shaped leaves, it is reminiscent of the traditional maypole. How different, on the other hand, is the birch in autumn dressed in golden leaves, so lovely and radiant. Less delighted, however, are people suffering from allergies when in April/May catkins appear on the birch and the wind spreads the yellow pollen of the male flowers far and wide. We can see the streets and squares where birches are to be found covered in pollen like yellow icing sugar at this time of year.
Unlike its smaller sister, Betula pubescens, the silver birch also grows in dry places. It is one of the first trees to colonise empty spaces, a true pioneer. After the Ice Age too, it was one of the first to colonise the land after the glaciers receded.