Dwarf Birch (Betula nana )

Botanical Name :Betula nana
Family : Betulaceae
Genus : Betula
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fagales
Suenusbg: Chamaebetula
Species: B. nana
Synonyms: Betula exilis; Betula glandulosa; Betula glandulosa var. hallii; Betula glandulosa var. sibirica; Betula michauxii; Betula nana ssp. exilis; Betula nana var. sibirica; Betula terrae-novae Fern.
Other Names: : Bog birch; Scrub birch; Dwarf birch
Habitat : B. nana is native to arctic and cool temperate regions of northern Europe, including Britain, east to Siberia, northern Asia and northern North America and it will grow in a variety of conditions.It can be found in Greenland. Outside of far northern areas, it is usually found only growing in mountains above 300 m, up to 835 m in Scotland and 2200 m in the Alps. Its eastern range limit is on Svalbard, where it is confined to warm sites.

Description:
It is a decidious shrub growing to 1-1.2 m high. The bark is non-peeling and shiny red-copper colored. The leaves are rounded, 6-20 mm diameter, with a bluntly toothed margin. The fruiting catkins are erect, 5-15 mm long and 4-10 mm broad.
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It is hardy to zone 2 and is frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in July. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

There are two subspecies:-

1.Betula nana subsp. nana. Canada (Baffin Island), Greenland, northern Europe (south to the Alps at high altitudes), northwestern Asia. Young twigs hairy, but without resin; leaves longer (to 20 mm), usually as long as broad.

2.Betula nana subsp. exilis
. Northeastern Asia, northern North America (Alaska, Canada east to Nunavut). Young twigs hairless or only with scattered hairs, but coated in resin; leaves shorter (not over 12 mm long), often broader than long.

Cultivation:

Succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sheltered position. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Grows well in moist places or the heath garden. Shade tolerant. This species is native to areas with very cold winters and often does not do well in milder zones. It can be excited into premature growth in mild winters and this new growth is susceptible to frost damage. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus.

Propagation:

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring – do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves.

Edible Uses: Condiment.

Young leaves and catkins – raw. The buds and twigs are used as a flavouring in stews.

Medicinal  Actions & Uses
Antirheumatic; Astringent; Lithontripic; Miscellany; Salve; Sedative; Stomachic.

The bark is antirheumatic, astringent, lithontripic, salve and sedative. Moxa is prepared from the plant and is regarded as an effective remedy in all painful diseases. No more details are given, but it is likely that the moxa is prepared from yellow fungous excretions of the wood, since the same report gives this description when talking about other members of the genus. A compound decoction of the leaves has been used in the treatment of stomach ache and intestinal discomfort.

Other Uses

Dye; Ground cover; Hair; Tinder.

Plants can be used for ground cover, forming a spreading hummock up to 1.2 metres across. An infusion of the plant is used as a hair conditioner and dandruff treatment. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves. The plant has been used as a tinder, even when wet, and for cooking fires when there is a lack of larger wood. It is likely that the bark was used for tinder.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Betula+nana
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_nana
http://www.hortiplex.com/plants/p1/gw1005314.html
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Betula_nana

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