Betula pendula – Silver Birch


Betula pendula are rapidly growing, undemanding trees, which after about 50 years have reached their final height of about 25 meters (82 ft). Silver birch is found in sparse deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests and is native to almost all of Europe. An exception is Northern Scandinavia. In the Alpine region, the trees can be found up to 1,900 meters (6.200 ft) in height.


The trees have a long, continuous trunk and a loose crown. Betula pendula is characterized by acute-angled branches and overhanging branches. The growth form is extremely varied. Characteristic of Betula pendula are the changeable, four to seven centimeters long leaves. The bark is black-brown to gray in young trees. Later, the trunk assumes its characteristic shape and is rolling white. The trunks of Silver birches can be up to 80 cm thick. in rare cases the trees reach a height of 30 meters.


The buds of Silver birch are up to four millimeters long and are brownish to glossy green. In their shape, the buds of Silver birch are slightly pointed.


Between March and the beginning of May, the flowering of Silver birch begins. The male kittens are of yellowish color. During the late summer, the female kitten turns into an intense brown color. Each individual kitten can develop hundreds of airworthy seeds, which the autumn wind carries over considerable distances. At about ten years, free-standing trees are sexually mature. In the stock, sexual maturity begins about ten years later. The male flowers form already in the fall of the previous year and overwinter, before they open in the coming spring.


The fruits of the Silver birch ripen from August to September. The thin-skinned nutlets are about three millimeters long. About two weeks after their fall and the spread by the wind, the fruits begin to germinate.

Birch wood

Below the bark of Silver birch is the white to yellowish-white wood. There are hardly any differences in color between the core and the sapwood. Birch wood is difficult to split, elastic and shrinks strongly. As a timber birch wood is rather unsuitable. On the other hand it is used especially as plywood. Even ladders, tables, chairs or wooden shoes are made from the wood of Silver birch. Birch wood is difficult to store and can quickly turn yellow or stained. From the bleeding juice of the birch hair is made. The tar of the bark serves as a preservative for leather. Finland has the highest quality birchwood stocks.

Birch water

was formerly used in households as hair tonic or made into jelly or birch (birch limo).

Birch sap extraction

Birch water occurs in spring won the sprouting of the leaves. At this time, the birch has already begun with the pressure build-up for the upcoming leaf ejection. To get to the birch sap, a branch is sawn off and the escaping juice is collected with a container (bucket). It could come together two to three liters on the first day. In the following days, the yield is always lower because the wound closes itself on its own. The juice of the birch is drinkable and tastes a bit sweet.

Landscape Plants

  • Deciduous broadleaf tree, 40-50(80) ft , pyramidal becoming rounded, graceful pendulous branching habit. Young twigs thin and usually pendulous. Whitish trunk bark, does not peel as easily as that of B. papyrifera, with age, trunk becomes mostly black. Leaves simple, alternate, broadly ovate, and sometimes rhomboidal to diamond shaped, wedge-shaped or truncate at base, 2.5-7.5 cm long, coarsely doubly serrate, slenderly tapered at apex; dotted with glands on both surfaces. Yellow leaf color in fall. Male flowers in (pollen) catkins, cylindrical, slender, 3-6 cm long; female flowers in catkins which develop into fruit cylindrical catkins (“cones”) about 2-4 cm long.
  • Sun or light shade, best with summer moisture in well-drained soil; will tolerate wet or dry soils. Transplants readily. Somewhat messy. This species and its selections (e.g., ‘Youngii’) are considered susceptible to the bronze birch borer, especially if under stress, e.g., grown without summer moisture. The bronze birch borer is common east of the Cascades but was essentially unknown in western Oregon before 2003; now it is becoming an increasing problem in the Portland area and Corvallis.
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 2 This species occurs naturally throughout most of Europe, where it is known as Silver Birch, and is an important source of hardwood in northern countries. It is the National Tree of Finland. It is also present in central-northern Asia, from Caucasus through Siberia, up into China and Japan. Betula pendula is well adapted to cold climates and is more abundant in the boreal zone, where it can be the dominant forest species.
  • A number of cultivars are available, including types that are cutleaf, weeping or have yellowish or purplish foliage. Here are three:
    • ‘Filigree Lace’ – very cutleaf
    • ‘Laciniata’ – cutleaf
    • ‘Purpurea’ – new leaves reddish purple
    • ‘Youngii’ – weeping

Similar observations were made by a team led by Prosiński et al. (1955) in studies concerning the influence of the location of spruce forest stands, between the northern State Forest regions of Olsztyn and Białystok and the southern regions of Poznań and Kraków, on the chemical composition of the wood. Samples for testing were obtained from spruce trees growing in different forest habitats, at 2 and 10 m above ground. The studies showed higher contents of cellulose and lignin in trees from the northern regions of Poland. However, the location was not found to have a significant influence on the remaining constituents of spruce wood.

The results concerning the content of constituents in the chemical composition of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) wood from different locations and from two different forest habitat types (FBF and FMBF) obtained in the present study were compared with data available from the literature.

Räisänen and Athanassiadis (2013), using data drawn from the literature (27 works in total published between 1978 and 2011, including 13 works published since 2000), compiled figures for the chemical composition of wood, bark from the stem, branches, foliage (needles and leaves), stumps and roots of Scots pine, Norway spruce, and silver and downy birch (combined figures were given for the two birches). They reported average (median) values for the contents of cellulose, hemicelluloses, lignin and extractives using the percentages obtained from the analysed publications. For birch trunk wood (B. pendula and B. pubescens) the calculated contents were 43.9% for cellulose, 28.9% for hemicelluloses, 20.2% for lignin and 3.8% for extractives (Räisänen and Athanassiadis 2013).

A more detailed chemical composition of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) wood was provided by Galewski and Korzeniowski (1958), Surmiński (1964, 2010), Wagenführ and Scheiber (2007), Wróblewska and Zieliński (1994), Wang et al. (2018) and Fengel and Wegener (1989) (Table 2). Pettersen (1984) included birch species in his comprehensive overview of the chemical compositions of deciduous and coniferous trees in several countries and continents, although no data was given for Betula pendula Roth. (Table 3). Also Fengel and Wegener (1989) reported the chemical composition of a birch species referring to geographical location.

Table 2 Chemical composition of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth., B. verrucosa Ehrh)* wood according to different authors Table 3 Chemical composition of different birch species in various geographical region

The variation in cellulose levels clearly reflects the different methods used for its determination. The highest values are obtained with the Cross–Bevan method, medium values with the Kürschner–Hoffer method, and the lowest with the currently preferred method described by Seifert (Prosiński 1984).

The total content of substances soluble in cold and hot water in the examined samples of silver birch wood (0.84–2.77%) falls within the range of values reported for birch species from different geographical regions, from less than 1 up to 4% (Table 2). However, it was lower than the values reported by Wagenführ and Scheiber (2007) for silver birch (2.3–3.4%).

Ethanol, alongside ether, acetone, benzene, dichloroethane and methanol, is one of the organic solvents used in the determination of levels of extractives present in wood. For many years a mixture of ethanol and benzene (1:1 or 1:2) was used, but due to the carcinogenicity of benzene, this mixture was replaced by other solvents. It is clear that the results of the extraction process depend heavily on the solvents used (Yang and Jaakkola 2011). Therefore it is important to always give the solvent used in the test. Presented in this paper amount of substances soluble in ethanol was calculated according to PN-P-50092 (1992). The content of extractives in silver birch wood samples from the 17 test plots amounted to 1.15–1.99%, which is also comparable to the published results concerning the extractives content (1.09–4.3%) in Betula pendula wood samples presented in Table 2 as well as those reported by Pettersen (1984) (Table 3).

The content of substances soluble in 1% NaOH in birch wood was found in this study to range from 14.16 to 16.28%. In a study by Wróblewska and Zieliński (1994) birch wood was found to contain between 14.86% and 19.17% of such substances. In birch species from Japan, the United States and Russia, the content of substances soluble in 1% NaOH ranged from 16 to 21% (Pettersen 1984).

The difference in the average cellulose content in Betula pendula birch from the 17 test plots, between the lowest value (41.78%) and the highest (43.22%), amounted to 1.44%. The values obtained for individual locations are evenly spread throughout the entire country, and do not distinguish any groups of forest districts constituting birch resource bases (Fig. 6). The highest cellulose content was determined in the forest regions of Sokołów (FBF), Giżycko (FMBF), Rudziniec (FBF) and Biała Podlaska (FBF); these are the same locations in which the highest wood density values were recorded by Lachowicz (2015). Of particular note is the birch wood from Górowo Iławeckie (FBF), which had the lowest cellulose content. The wood from this location had a below-average lignin content, the highest content of pentosans, substances soluble in 1% NaOH and water-soluble substances, and a notable content of extractives. The cellulose content in silver birch wood reported by different authors ranged from 40.94 to 56.5% (Table 2). The average cellulose content in Betula pendula Roth. wood obtained in this study—42.65%, falls in this range.

The average content of combined (acid-soluble and insoluble) lignin present in the wood of silver birch in all 17 test plots was 22.78%. Klason lignin content in the tested samples ranged from 18.35 to 19.27% (averaging 18.78%) and was comparable to the results reported by other authors (Tables 2, 3). The content of soluble lignin ranged between 3.20 and 5.14% (averaging 4.00%), was higher than the values given by Wróblewska and Zieliński (1994) (2.96–3.38%).

The average pentosans content in silver birch wood for all test plots was 24.74%, which is lower than the value of 27.07% given by Galewski and Korzeniowski (1958), but within the range of value reported by others authors for different birch species (Tables 2, 3).

The content of mineral substances in the tested samples of birch wood was low (0.18%) compared with data available in the literature: 0.39% (Table 2). The wood of other birch species contained from 0.2 to 0.7% of mineral substances (Fengel and Wegener 1989; Pettersen 1984).

Silver birch wood is slightly acidic, as is the case with the majority of tree species growing in temperate zones. The average pH value of wood from all test plots was 4.62, which is higher than the value of 4.37 determined by Wróblewska and Zieliński (1994), but lower than the value of 4.8 given by Fengel and Wegener (1989) and by Wagenführ and Scheiber (2007) (Table 2).

The influence of the location of test plots on the chemical composition of silver birch wood from the 12 forest districts (17 test plots in total) distributed throughout the country proved to be minimal with regard to the primary components of wood, namely cellulose, pentosans and lignin. The sum of the contents of the principal wood components in individual locations ranged from 89.26% in Giżycko (FBF) up to 91.57% in Rudziniec (FMBF), the average being 90.15% (Fig. 12). The highest total content of cellulose, lignin and pentosans (above 91%) was recorded in Rudziniec on both forest habitat types (FBF and FMBF). In Sokołów (FBF), Biała Podlaska (FBF), Giżycko (FMBF) and Lipinki (FBF), higher (above average for the whole group) contents of cellulose were determined together with lower (below average for the whole group) contents of lignin and pentosans. A higher than average content of pentosans was found in birch wood from Płaska (FBF), Górowo Iławeckie (FBF) and Bobolice (FBF), along with lower than average contents of cellulose and lignin. The wood from Płońsk (FBF), Elbląg (FBF), Mircze (FBF) and Łobez (FBF) had higher contents of lignin and pentosans than the average for the whole group, whilst the cellulose content was lower. Birch wood samples from the Łobez district, where the test plot was established on a fresh mixed broadleaved forest habitat, had cellulose, lignin and pentosans contents above the average values for the whole group, while in the wood from Giżycko (FMBF) the contents of all of these substances were below the average values for the whole group.

Fig. 12

Contents of primary components of silver birch wood depending on test plot location

Unlike in the case of the primary components of wood, the influence of test plot location on the content of secondary constituents of birch wood, especially those extracted with water or ethanol, was significant. The total content of substances extracted with water or ethanol (combined) ranged between 2.30% (Łobez FBF) and 4.03% (Górowo Iławeckie FBF). In the five forest districts (Sokołów, Biała Podlaska, Płaska, Giżycko and Elbląg) located in the north-eastern part of Poland, birch wood from trees growing on an FBF habitat contained more extractives than wood from the other locations on FBF and FMBF habitats (Fig. 13). To show more clearly the slight differences in extractives (water and ethanol) content regardless of location, the five locations with the FMBF habitat type are placed on the right side of the graph (Fig. 13).

Fig. 13

Content of water and alcohol-soluble extractives in silver birch wood depending on test plot location

As concerns the chemical composition of wood, the pulp and paper industry is mostly interested in raw material with high cellulose content. Also, for fibreboard production, wood with high cellulose content is greatly valued, as it improves the mechanical and physical properties of the boards while low contents of lignin enhance the wood defibration process, making it more cost-effective (Surmiński 1979, 2010).

The abovementioned industry requirements are best met by birch wood originating from the forest districts of Sokołów (FBF), Giżycko (FMBF), Biała Podlaska (FBF), Lipinki (FBF), and Rudziniec (FBF and FMBF), despite the fact that wood from Rudziniec has a high lignin content. The high-cellulose wood from the locations listed also had the highest density (Lachowicz 2015; Lachowicz et al. 2018a).

The smallest amount of ash in birch wood was found in the forest district of Łobez (FBF and FMBF). Slightly higher ash content was recorded in wood from Płońsk (FBF), Lipinki (FMBF) and Rudziniec (FMBF). The lower the content of mineral components in the wood, the better it serves as a raw material for the production of wood-based boards, as a high ash content causes blunting of tools and makes drilling, milling, cutting and sanding processes more difficult.

Higher pentosans content was found in wood from the Płońsk (FBF), Płaska (FBF), Górowo Iławeckie (FBF), Mircze (FBF) and Łobez (FBF) forest districts, whereas a high content of extractives and water-soluble substances was observed in birch wood from the districts of Sokołów (FBF), Biała Podlaska (FBF), Płaska (FBF) and Giżycko (FBF) and Górowo Iławeckie (FBF). Thanks to these properties, the wood from the mentioned forest districts may serve as a biomass raw material for valuable added chemicals in different biorefining processes (Willför et al. 2005; Bergström and Matisons 2014).

The investigations of the chemical composition of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) wood from the 17 test plots established on two different forest habitat types (FBF and FMBF) in this study are closely aligned with the research work of many distinguished scientists working on possibilities of multidirectional utilization of all birch wood components. The aim is to examine the influence of the chemical composition of birch wood on its effective and waste-free use as a raw material not only in the pulp and paper industry, but also as a renewable resource—lignocellulosic biomass. In the latest study programmes concerning the structure of wood, emphasis is placed on a complete and accurate understanding of the chemical composition of the primary constituents (especially hemicelluloses and lignin) and of the secondary constituents (substances soluble in water and organic solvents) as well as their transformation under the influence of factors present during handling and processing (thermal, hydrolytic, enzymatic, chemical, mechanical, etc.). Thus research aims to optimise the traditional methods and to develop new ecological methods of birch wood utilisation that are compatible with sustainable development. Buzała et al. (2015) carried out studies on the susceptibility of cellulose pulp obtained using sulphate and thermomechanical methods and from wood chips of different tree species (including silver birch) to enzymatic decomposition all the way to glucose and reducing sugars. In the course of their research, they investigated the influence of lignin content on the enzymatic hydrolysis yields. The greatest amounts of glucose and reducing sugars were obtained from cellulose pulp that contained the smallest amount of lignin.

The wood of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.), like that of many other deciduous trees, contains substantial quantities of hemicelluloses, which are partially soluble in water. During the production of pulp using a mechanical or chemical–mechanical method, water-soluble polysaccharides are released and accumulate in process waters. Anionic polysaccharides are particularly damaging and can react with cationic polymers used in paper production, causing precipitation of deposits (Willför et al. 2005). Because of this phenomenon, the aforementioned authors analysed sugar extracts obtained from 11 deciduous tree species including silver birch. It was found that birch wood contained the highest quantity of 4-O-methylglucuronic acids, which undergo transformation during the production processes of sulphate wood pulp. Silver birch wood contained 415 mg/g of cellulose (the results coincide with the findings presented in this study) and the highest amounts of xylan in comparison with the other species examined (Willför et al. 2005).

Comprehensive innovative utilization of birch wood in the future depends on obtaining knowledge on chemical reactions taking place between wood components during wood processing. In the literature, one can find in-depth research on the transformation of chemical constituents of birch wood by means of various technological processes. According to Kocaefe et al. (2008) the thermal processing of paper birch wood (Betula papyrifera) mainly caused the decomposition of hemicelluloses (responsible for the hygroscopicity of the wood), and to a lesser degree the ramification of lignin and crystallisation of the cellulose responsible for the mechanical properties of the wood. Under the influence of temperature, the wood changed colour from light to dark, quite possibly because the hemicelluloses separated into coloured substances and lignin changed its structure (it is a well-known fact that lignin reacts with electromagnetic waves in the visible range). Investigations of the discolouration of birch wood by vacuum drying proved that the change of colour is caused mainly by extractible phenolic compounds with low molecular weight (Hiltunen et al. 2008). Some of the 23 phenolic substances (glycosides), including three new ones, extracted from the wood of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) by Hiltunen et al. (2006) can be partially found in the bark of this tree species. The other phenolic extractives can be found in the wood of other birch species. Colour changes in birch wood caused by bleaching with an acidic solution of H2O2 indicate the breakdown of aromatic structures, with an apparent increase of unchanged carbonyl structures (Mononen et al. 2005).

The wood and bark of birch are the subject of detailed investigations and studies concerning new methods of biological treatments (biorefining, pyrolysis) having the aim of replacing synthetic chemicals with those obtained from renewable sources: furfural, bioethanol, etc. (Karnaouri et al. 2016; Turley et al. 2006; Vedrenikovs et al. 2010; Zhurinsh et al. 2013).

Silver Birch

Betula pendula Roth

French: bouleau verruqueux | German: Hänge-Birke, Sandbirke, Weißbirke, Warzenbirke | Italian: betulla bianca
Etymology of Latin species name: pendula = hanging, as its branches droop

Where it grows

The silver birch occurs naturally throughout most of Europe: from the Iberian Peninsula, Italy and Greece up to Scandinavia. It is also present in central-northern Asia, from Caucasus through Siberia, up to China and Japan. This birch grows at sea-level in its northern range and at up to 2,500 m above sea level in Asia Minor. Silver birch prefers cold climates and it is more abundant in the boreal zone, where it can be the dominant forest species.

What it looks like

The silver birch is a medium-sized tree, growing to 15-25 m in height, only exceptionally it can reach 30m. It develops slender trunks with diameters under 40 cm. Silver birch commonly lives for 90-100 years, and more rarely up to 150 years. The bark of mature trees is silvery-white, with horizontal fissures. Leaves are triangular with toothed margins and ending in a pointed tip. The foliage is pale green and turns to yellow and brown in autumn. In summer catkins of male flowers release yellow pollen. The catkins of female flowers are shorter, and, after wind pollination, they develop into cylinder-shaped fruits formed from hundreds of winged seeds, which are dispersed by wind.


The silver birch commercially is one of the most important sources of hardwood in northern Europe. It is fast-growing and tolerates low temperatures, infertile soils and water deficit. For these reasons, it is widely planted primarily for wood production, but also for revegetation, land reclamation and erosion control. The light and porous wood has numerous uses: pulp for paper, plywood, veneer, timber, furniture and firewood. For its pleasant colours, silver birch is commonly planted in urban areas, roadsides and parks.

Did you know?

  • Birch sap can be tapped and consumed, either fresh as a tonic, fermented (birch beer or wine), or concentrated into a syrup.
  • Medicinal properties of birch have been noted since the medieval period; leaf or bark decoctions have diuretic, anti-rheumatic and anti-fever purgative properties.
  • This tree is considered holy and revered by Celtic and Germanic tribes, for having sacred powers of renewal and purification.

Check out the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species. It has much more information about Silver Birch and many other tree species in Europe’s forests.

Distribution map of silver birch in Europe
©European Union, 2017Triangular and toothed leaves of silver birch
©Flickr, S. Rae – CC-BY 2.0Frozen silver birch on Velvet Hill near Berwyn (Wales, UK)
©Flickr, Andrew – CC-BY 2.0Cylinder-shaped mature fruits of silver birch, which are formed from hundreds of winged seeds
©Wikimedia, Giovanni Caudullo – CC-BY 4.0Silver birch plantation in near Cambrige (England, UK)
©Flickr, Martin Pettitt – CC-BY 2.0Silver birch sap tapped into a plastic bottle.
©Fotolia, Ornitolog82

Learn more about the research the European Commission does on forests and forestry.


  • Name also: European White Birch, Warty Birch
  • Family: Birch Family – Betulaceae
  • Growing form and height: Usually tree with single trunk. 8–25 m (25–80 ft.).
  • Flower: Small, greenish to brownish, lacking perianth. Inflorescences dense, pendent catkins formed by numerous, 2–3-flowered cymes. Male and female flowers in separate inflorescences.
  • Leaves: Triangular to diamond-shaped, hairless. Margin doubly serrate (sawlike), rarely incised. Often reddish or brown when at emergence. Autumn colour yellow.
  • Buds: Narrowly tapering, rather small, brown.
  • Fruit: Small, winged achene.
  • Habitat: Dry and moist forests, eskers, rocky hills, drained mires, various marginal scrub. Also a park and forestry tree.
  • Flowering time: April–June. Flowers when coming into leaf.

The genus Betula comprises some 40 species, both trees, shrubs, and dwarf shrubs. The trunks of birches are covered with white or darkish, often papery bark. They flower when coming into leaf in the spring. The small flowers are unisexual, the inflorescence a catkin-like, dense compound cyme.

Silver birch can be distinguished from downy birch (B. pubescens) by its drooping branch tips and dark, fissured bark at the base of its trunk. Its young twigs are hairless but covered with resin warts, whereas those of downy birch are hairy but smooth. The leaves of silver birch are doubly serrate, those of downy birch only serrate.

Silver birch is a vigorously sprouting and light-demanding pioneer species which quickly occupies bare ground. It does not thrive on waterlogged soil. The timber is used for plywood and furniture. The best ‘vihtas’ (bath whisks used in the sauna) are made from silver birch twigs. Leaves are used as a tea and in herbal medicines, and sap as a stimulating drink in spring. Curly birch (var. carelica) is a hereditary variety of silver birch. Its wood is curly-grained. Several feather-leaved varieties of silver birch are used as ornamentals.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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Silver Birch Quick Facts
Name: Silver Birch
Scientific Name: Betula pendula
Origin Europe and parts of Asia, though in southern Europe it is only found at higher altitudes
Shapes Pendulous and cylindrical fruits up to 4 cm long
Taste Sweet, bitter, astringent
Health benefits Good for Immunity, For Digestion, Good for Inflammation, For Insomnia, Beneficial for skin and hair, Good for Urinary tract conditions

Betula pendula, commonly known as silver birch, is a medium-sized deciduous tree, which is classified under Betulaceae family. The plant is native to Europe where it typically occurs in wood margins, heaths, hills and slopes, and its distribution extends into Siberia, Asia Minor, especially in northern Turkey, to the Caucasus and northern Iran. It has been introduced into North America, where it is known as the European white birch, and is considered invasive in some states in the United States and in parts of Canada.The tree can also be found in more temperate regions of Australia. It has been widely planted in Canada and the northern U.S. as an ornamental.

Some of the popular common names of the plants are Silver Birch, European white birch, Common Birch, Warty Birch, European White Birch, East Asian white birch, bed wen, birk tree, lady birch, lady of the woods and weeping birch. It is believed that the name “Birch” comes from the Indo-European word “bhereo”which means glossy white. The genus name Betula comes from the Latin”bitumen” (= mineral pitch, asphalt), because the Gauls often made a kind of bitumen from Birch sap. The epithet pendula refers to the drooping male inflorescence (catkins), up to 10 cm long and the overhanging branches.

Plant Description

Silver Birch is a fast growing, striking, medium-sized deciduous tree that grows about 15 to 25 m (49 to 82 ft.) tall (exceptionally up to 31 meters (102 ft.)) with a slender trunk usually under 40 cm (16 in) diameter. The plant is found growing in dry and moist forests, eskers, rocky hills, drained mires, various marginal scrub, also a park and forestry tree. It is best grown in medium to wet, well-drained sandy or rocky loams. The root system of the silver birch varies according to soil conditions. Tap root is formed on dry places (e. g. sandy dunes). Shallow roots develop on wet sites and on spoil heaps, mined land or bare land. The root system can be deep and lateral roots achieve even 40 m in length.


The bark is whiter than downy birch with scattered black fissures. The young twigs are typically covered in white ‘warts’, and feel rough to the touch. The bark becomes much more rugged with diamond shaped cracks as it gets older.


Leaves are alternate, simple, and 3-7 cm long, broadly ovate, triangular or rhomboidal, doubly and unequally serrate. The upper surface is dark green, the underside is brighter green. Young leaves with rare hairs are sticky. Petiole is up to 3 cm long. Leaves from sprouts are big, heart-shaped and hairy. Stipules are up to 8 mm long, falling early. The foliage is a pale to medium green and turns yellow/ brown early in the autumn and start to drop at the end of October.


Silver birch is monoecious and begins to flower at age 10 years if open-grown, and at age 20-25 years in a stand. Silver birch is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers (catkins) are found on the same tree, from April to May. Male catkins are long and yellow-brown in color,and hang in groups of two to four at the tips of shoots, like lambs’ tails. Female catkins are smaller, short, bright green and erect. It fruits every year but full seed years occur every 2 to 3 years.


After successful pollination (by wind), Silver birch produces many small winged fruits (achenes) containing at least one seed without endosperm. The small 1 to 2 mm winged seeds ripen in late summer on pendulous, cylindrical catkins 2 to 4 cm (0.8 to 1.6 in) long and 7 mm (0.3 in)broad. The seeds are very numerous and are separated by scales, and when ripe,the whole catkin disintegrates and the seeds are spread widely by the wind. One tree can produce many thousands of seeds each year.


The word birch is probably anciently derived from the Sanskrit bhurga, “a tree whose bark is used for writing upon,” and the thin peeled bark has been used for this purpose. Via the proto- Indo-European root of bherag, it transmuted into the Old German birka. From its uses in boat-building and roofing it is also connected with the Anglo-Saxon beorgan, “to protect or shelter.” Bunches of birch sticks, or “fasces,” incorporating an ax were used as a symbol by Italian Fascists, supporters of Benito Mussolini.

Bark-of-Silver-Birch Catkins-of-Silver-Birch Dried-fruit-of-Silver-Birch
Flower-of-Silver-Birch Leaves-of-Silver-Birch Pair-of-finnish-traditional-shoes-woven-from-stripes-of-birch-bark
Silver-Birch–Plant Silver-Birch–Plant-during-Autumn Winter-buds-of-Silver-Birch

Health benefits of Silver Birch

Listed below are few of the popular health promoting health benefits of silver birch plant

1.Good for Immunity

Birch leaves can be consumed in the form of a tea to help boost the body’s immune system. Leaves consist of antiviral and antibacterial properties that help protect the body against infection and also speed up recovery from any infection that you may have. Birch leaf tea also contains numerous natural antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and vitamin C which can further improve general health and help to reverse the damage done to the body by free radicals.

2. For Digestion

Drinking a few cups of birch tea made with the leaves and the bark can help to stimulate your digestive system and improved overall digestion. Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, it is highly effective in relieving digestive upset. The tea can also be used to relieve common digestive complaints like a cramp, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.

Leaves also possess mild laxative properties meaning that they can be consumed to help relieve constipation and support more regular bowel movement. It has also been used throughout the centuries as a general digestive tonic.

3. Good for Inflammation

Leaves and the bark can be used to help make an anti-inflammatory tea to help treat various forms of inflammation. Bark, in particular, is high in betulinic acid which has strong anti-inflammatory activity. Because of this, birch tea can be used to help treat common joint conditions like arthritis and rheumatism. It can also be used to help relieve internal inflammation affecting the digestive and respiratory systems.

4. For Insomnia

Like many herbal teas, birch leaf tea may help promote a good night of sleep if you drink a cup or two before bedtime. The effects are probably mild and improbable to help you overcome more serious sleep issues,but if you are simply feeling a little on edge, it is worth giving it a go.

5. Beneficial for skin and hair

Leaves and the bark of birch tree consist of astringent properties making them an effective treatment for numerous skin conditions.Birch bark also contains excellent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties making it a good natural treatment for numerous inflammatory skin conditions. Conditions that birch may help treat include eczema and dermatitis.

To treat your skin with the leaves, soak birch leaves in a jug of water for at least a few hours and then strain the solution. Use the leaf water to wash your skin paying particular attention to the affected areas.Bathing in water infused with birch leaves is another effective way of treating the skin, prevent dandruff and to help strengthen your hair roots.

Birch leaves can also be added to a compress to treat the irritation or to relieve joint pain while you may also be interested in making your own oil.

6. Good for Urinary tract conditions

Birch leaves can be used to make a tea or juiced to help treat inflammation or infection in the urinary tract. It may also help treat edema and flush the kidneys. Birch leaves have diuretic properties meaning that a tea made from them can help promote both the volume and the frequency of a person’s urination. This, in turn, helps to flush uric acid, toxins and excess fluids throughout the body. It can also help maintain good liver and kidney health and may even help eliminate unsightly cellulite.

Ayurvedic Health benefits of Silver birch

  • Blood Purifier: Use One tablespoon inner bark of Birch with one cup boiling water. Take One cup daily.
  • Urinary tract Infections: Leaf tea of Birch is quite useful for Urinary Tract Infection. It can be prepared by boiling some leaves in a cup of water for 5-10 minutes. Drink unsweetened.
  • Aphthous Ulcers: Boil the inner bark of Birch in some water. Use this water as a mouthwash.
  • Analgesic: The essential oil of Birch can be applied externally to relieve Headache, Menstrual Cramps, Abdominal Cramps, Gout, Rheumatism and other pains.
  • Wounds: Boil the bark in some water and use the liquid as a wash for Wounds.
  • Baldness: Decoction of the leaves can be used as a hair rinse.
  • Arthritis:Prepare infusion of 1 teaspoon of Birch bark and 1 teaspoon of Dandelion root. Add 1 slice of grated Ginger Root. Keep on low heat. Turn off the heat when it boils. Drink half a cup when it cools. Cautions: Do not use if you are sensitive to analgesic drugs.
  • Septicemia: Take equal amount of Stinging Nettle Root, Horsetail leaves, Birch leaves, Dandelion leaves. Prepare a decoction. Take one cup once a day.
  • Kidney Stones: Boil one tablespoon leaves of Birch in half cup water for 10 minutes. Let it stand for 2 hours. Add half tablespoon Baking Soda. Take One cup a day.
  • Gallstones: Take Dandelion root, Milk Thistle, Birch Leaves and Stinging Nettle leaves in equal quantities. Make a tea by boiling all these herbs together and drink regularly to prevent Kidney and Gallstones
  • Kidney Tonic:Take 30 gram Solidago Virgaurea, 5 gram Horsetail, 10 gram Spiny Restharrow, 20 gram Birch Leaves and 30 ml alcohol. Put all herbs in alcohol. Leave it for 2 to 3 days. After that, strain the preparation. Your tincture has ready to use. Put 10 drops in 20 ml of water and drink. Do this daily. It takes little more time than allopathy medicine but your problem will be cured completely.

Traditional uses and benefits of Silver Birch

  • Bark is diuretic and laxative.
  • Oil obtained from the inner bark is astringent and is used in the treatment of various skin afflictions, especially eczema and psoriasis.
  • Bark is usually obtained from trees that have been felled for timber and can be distilled at any time of the year.
  • Inner bark is bitter and astringent; it is used in treating intermittent fevers.
  • Vernal sap is diuretic.
  • Buds are balsamic.
  • Young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance which has acid properties, when combined with alkalis it is a tonic laxative.
  • Leaves are anti-cholesterolemic and diuretic.
  • They also contain phytosides, which are effective germicides.
  • An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of gout, dropsy and rheumatism, and is recommended as a reliable solvent of kidney stones.
  • Decoction of the leaves and bark is used for bathing skin eruptions.
  • Moxa is made from the yellow fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out of the fissures.
  • The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Betula species for infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism.
  • It cures various Skin conditions like Eczema,Psoriasis and Skin Eruptions.
  • Oil extracted from the buds of the tree is used topically to cure Acne.
  • Birch leaves extract or decoction cures Baldness and also, used to treat insomnia.
  • It reduces the uric acid in the body when combined with garlic or onion.
  • The herb is used to cure Cramps and Wounds.
  • Decoction of bark is used to treat chronic Skin problems.
  • It also aids in the conditions of Diarrhea, Dysentery and Cholera.
  • Tea made up of the twigs and bark aids in ridding the mouth of the sores and Skin Eruptions as well.
  • It is an effective herb in removing Intestinal Worms.
  • Herbal tea prepared from Birch leaf is helpful in relieving Muscular pain.
  • Juice of the leaves, while they are young, or the distilled water of them, or the water that comes from the tree being bored with an auger, and distilled afterwards; any of these being drank for some days together can help to break the stone in the kidneys and bladder and is good also to wash sore mouths.”

Culinary Uses

  • Inner bark can be consumed cooked or dried and ground into a meal.
  • It can be added as a thickener to soups etc. or can be mixed with flour for making bread, biscuits etc.
  • Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply.
  • Sap can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Sap can makes a pleasant drink.
  • It is often concentrated into syrup by boiling off the water.
  • Sap can be fermented into a beer.
  • Young leaves can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Tea is made from the leaves and another tea is made from the essential oil in the inner bark.

Other facts

  • Bark is used to make drinking vessels, canoe skins, roofing tiles etc.
  • Tar-oil is obtained from the white bark in spring.
  • It has fungicidal properties and is also used as an insect repellent.
  • It makes a good shoe polish.
  • An essential oil is obtained from the bark called’Russian Leather’ has been used as a perfume.
  • Decoction of the inner bark is used to preserve cordage, it contains up to 16% tannin.
  • Oil similar to Wintergreen oil is obtained from the inner bark.
  • It is used medicinally and also makes a refreshing tea.
  • Resin glands are used to make a hair lotion.
  • Brown dye is obtained from the inner bark.
  • Glue is made from the sap.
  • Cordage can be made from the fibers of the inner bark.
  • This inner bark can also be separated into thin layers and used as a substitute for oiled paper.
  • Young branches are very flexible and are used to make whisks, besoms etc.
  • They are also used in thatching and to make wattles.
  • Leaves are a good addition to the compost heap,improving fermentation.
  • Wood is used for a wide range of purposes including furniture, tool handles, toys and carving.
  • High quality charcoal is obtained from the bark. It is used by artists, painters etc.
  • Wood is also pulped and used for making paper.
  • It is a fast growing tree, increasing by up to 1 meter a year, but is short-lived.
  • It can be used to improve soil quality for other plants to grow.
  • Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year.
  • Gardeners still use the birch besom, or broom,to ‘purify’ their gardens.
  • Bark is used for tanning leather.
  • It is planted decoratively in parks and gardens and is used for forest products such as joinery timber, firewood, tanning,racecourse jumps and brooms.
  • Slabs of bark are used for making roof shingles and strips are used for handicrafts such as wooden footwear and small containers.
  • Dead twigs are also useful as kindling for outdoor fires.
  • The silver birch is the national tree of Finland.
  • It is commonly used as an ornamental plant for parks, gardens and urban environments.
  • Catkin contains hundreds of seeds and a large tree can produce over 1 million seeds a year!
  • Average maximum biological age of silver birch is approximately 100 years, although sometimes trees can survive up to the age of 150 years.
  • It is known to keep away insects and prevent gnat bites when smeared on the hands.
  • Wood has been used for thread bobbins,herring-barrel staves, broom handles and various fancy articles.
  • Twigs were also used in broom-making and in the manufacture of cloth.


  • Aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin.
  • Do not use in patients with edema or with poor kidney or heart functions.
  • Pregnant and breast feeding mothers should avoid the use of this herb.
  • Birch leaves might cause the amount of salt in the body to elevate which in turn worsens the high bold pressure problems.

Fairy Folklore

Birch trees have spiritual importance in many historical religions and are related with elves in Gaelic folklore. As such, birches frequently appear in Scottish, Irish and English folklore in association with death or fairies, or returning from the grave.

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Silver Birch Betula Pendula Sapling Stock Photos and Images

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  • Silver birch (Betula pendula) sapling in autumn, Rondane National Park, Norway, September.
  • birch (Betula spec.), tree planting volunteer showing off handywork, United Kingdom, Scotland
  • Young Silver Birch trees, Betula Pendula
  • Silver birch tree trunks, New Forest, England
  • Young silver birch sapling and stonecrop growing amongst slate in the disused Dinorwig slate mine, Snowdonia, North Wales, UK
  • Silver Birch, Betula pendula, young sapling tree.
  • Frosted Silver Birch Betula pendula saplings, Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England
  • Silver Birch tree (Betula Pendula) in late Spring
  • Silver Birch Betula pendula sapling growing
  • Curved Birch Sapling (Betula pendula)
  • trunks of young silver birch trees in autumn woodland
  • Impressionistic rich brown and burgundy red trunk and branches of Silver birch tree with golden reeds in background
  • Impressionistic burgundy red and brown stem and twigs of Silver birch tree with tan reeds in background

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