Silver Birch
(Betula pendula)
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
leaves <6 cm

leaves

leaves

Winter twig
Winter twig

bark

catkins

tree

distribution map

The leaves are alternate, oval to wedge-shaped, about 2.5-5 cm long with narrow pointed tips, and are hairless. The margins are clearly double-toothed whilst the leaf stalks are 1-2 cm long and also hairless.

ID check

Silver birch is a deciduous tree with a single trunk up to 30m in height and it has pendulous branches. Silver birch grows in woods and on heathland especially on light sandy soils. It is more tolerant of dry soils than downy birch.

The young shoots are hairless and shiny and often covered in tiny white warts (lenticels).

The bark of mature trees is silvery-white but with black, diamond-shaped patches near the base.

The male and female catkins are on the same tree (monoecious) and open in April. The pendant males are 3-6 cm long, whilst the erect females are short, 1-2 cm long.

Facts

  • Silver birch is one of the most valuable trees for wildlife supporting 230 species of insect including buff tip moths and sawflies.

  • The whitish timber is much used for furniture-making, wooden floors and broom-heads.

  • The twigs are valuable for making besom brooms, forest-fire beaters and jumps for steeplechasers.

Downy birch (B. pubescens) is similar. Hybrids between the two species are, however, commonly found.

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