Despite its graceful appearance, the silver birch is one of Britain’s hardiest trees. In the past its sacred properties made the birch useful for expelling evil spirits from delinquents.
A natural pioneer species, it seeds freely and is able to colonise open land with a preference for lowland. The silver birch - or Betula pendula - is found throughout the country on light, dry soils and is a valuable conservation species.
Facts about the silver birch
Uses: Its pale, smooth timber is a hardwood and silver birch timber is often used in plywood production, brush backs, toys and reels. On a lesser scale, the twigs are cut to make besom brooms and horse jumps.
Leaves: Triangular which turn yellow before falling.
Bark: Silvery-white upper bark is papery and peeling.
Height: Up to 24 metres tall with spreading lower branches and the rest pointing up.
Lifespan: 120 years
Supporting insect species: 334
Natural range: Europe, North Africa and West Asia