Tag Archives: Betula pendula

Betula pendula/Betula alba

Botanical Name :Betula pendula/Betula alba
Family: Betulaceae
Genus: Betula Subgenus: Betula.     Species: B. pendula
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Synonyms include Betula pendula var. carelica (Merckl.) Hämet-Ahti, B. pendula var. laciniata (Wahlenb.) Tidestr., B. pendula var. lapponica (Lindq.) Hämet-Ahti, B. aetnensis Raf., B. montana V.N.Vassil, B. talassica Poljakov, B. verrucosa Ehrh., B. verrucosa var. lapponica Lindq., and B. fontqueri Rothm. The rejected name Betula alba L. also applied in part to B. pendula, though also to B. pubescens. Silver Birch has also sometimes been called Weeping Birch or European Weeping Birch

Common Names  : Birch bark & leaf , White Birch, Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch,Silver Birch, European white birch, Common Birch, Warty Birch

Habitat : Betula pendula (silver birch) is a widespread European birch, though in southern Europe it is only found at higher altitudes. Its range extends into southwest Asia in the mountains of northern Turkey and the Caucasus. The closely related Betula platyphylla in northern Asia and Betula szechuanica of central Asia are also treated as varieties of silver birch by some botanists, as B. pendula var. platyphylla and B. pendula va.r. szechuanica respectively

It is a medium-sized deciduous tree, typically reaching 15–25 metres (49–82 ft) tall (exceptionally up to 39 metres (128 ft)), with a slender trunk usually under 40 centimetres (16 in) diameter, but exceptionally to 1 metre (3.3 ft) diameter, and a crown of arched branches with drooping branchlets. The bark is white, often with black diamond-shaped marks or larger patches, particularly at the base. The shoots are rough with small warts, and hairless, and the leaves 3–7 centimetres (1.2–2.8 in) long, triangular with a broad base and pointed tip, and coarsely double-toothed serrated margins. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins, produced before the leaves in early spring, the small 1-2mm winged seeds ripening in late summer on pendulous, cylindrical catkins 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.6 in) long and 7 mm broad.

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It is distinguished from the related downy birch (B. pubescens, the other common European birch) in having hairless, warty shoots (hairy and without warts in downy birch), more triangular leaves with double serration on the margins (more ovoid and with single serrations in downy birch), and whiter bark often with scattered black fissures (greyer, less fissured, in downy birch). It is also distinguished cytologically, silver birch being diploid (with two sets of chromosomes), whereas downy birch is tetraploid (four sets of chromosomes). Hybrids between the two are known, but are very rare, and being triploid, are sterile. The two have differences in habitat requirements, with silver birch found mainly on dry, sandy soils, and Downy Birch more common on wet, poorly drained sites such as clay soils and peat bogs. Silver birch also demands slightly more summer warmth than does Downy birch, which is significant in the cooler parts of Europe. Many North American texts treat the two species as conspecific (and cause confusion by combining the downy birch’s alternative vernacular name ‘white birch’, with the scientific name B. pendula of the other species), but they are regarded as distinct species throughout Europe.

It commonly grows with the mycorrhizal fungus Amanita muscaria in a mutualistic relationship. This applies particularly to acidic or nutrient poor soils. Other mycorrhizal associates include Leccinum scabrum and Cantharellus cibarius. Old trees are often killed by the decay fungus Piptoporus betulinus, and the branches often have witch’s brooms caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina

Successful birch cultivation requires a climate cool enough for at least the occasional winter snowfall. As they are shallow rooted they may require water during dry periods. They grow best in full sun planted in deep, well-drained soil

 Parts Used: Bark, leaves

Constituents:  buds: volatile oil which includes the camphor-like betulin. young leaves: rich in saponins; also a flavonoid derivative, hyperoside resin, tannins, sesquiterpenes, betuloventic acid, vitamin c. bark: betulinol and a glycoside

Medicinal Uses:
* Cancer Prevention * Eczema * Kidney * Pain Relief
Properties: * Analgesic * Anti-inflammatory * AntiCancer * Aromatic * Astringent * Depurative * Febrifuge * Vermifuge
Parts Used: Bark, leaves

Birch is a natural pain reliever containing salicylate, the compound found in aspirin. Salicylate relieves the inflammation and pain associated with  osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and generalized muscle pain. Salicylate deters the body’s production of certain prostaglandins that are linked to inflammation, pain, and fever among other things. An other reason birch calms arthritis and gout is it’s cleansing diuretic action that eliminates toxins and excess water. Sweet birch can have good results against cellulite.

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions of birch bark support it’s traditional uses in skin disorders such as eczema. Traditional healers have long considered the leaves of the white and silver birch effective for skin rashes and hair loss. The essential oil of birch is astringent and is mainly employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema. 2The American species Betula lenta, (Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch) oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil, but is not as toxic. Still, the methyl salicylate it contains can have harmful effects if used unwisely, and it is not for general use in aromatherapy and never to be taken internally. Birch bark and leaf in whole herb form have a much lower toxicity.

Birch bark and leaf is also used as an antibacterial diuretic in the treatment of urinary tract infections and cystitis. To increase the effect (and reduce burning) add a pinch of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to the infusion.

Betulin and betulinic acid, both present in birch bark display some anticancer and anti-tumor properties, 4  though neither is touted as a stand alone cure for cancer these constituents add another reason to employ birch in healing remedies and help to validate its history of use from ancient times until today.

Other Uses:
Silver birch is often planted in parks and gardens, grown for its white bark and gracefully drooping shoots, sometimes even in warmer-than-optimum places such as Los Angeles and Sydney. In Scandinavia and other regions of northern Europe, it is grown for forest products such as lumber and pulp, as well as for aesthetic purposes and ecosystem services. It is sometimes used as a pioneer and nurse tree elsewhere. It is naturalised and locally invasive in parts of Canada. Birch brushwood is used for racecourse jumps, and the sap contains around 1% sugars and can be drunk or be brewed into a “wine”. Historically, the bark was used for tanning. Silver birch wood can make excellent timber for carving kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons and spatulas: its very mild, sweet flavour does not contaminate food, and it has an attractive pale colour. Bark can be heated and the resin collected; the resin is an excellent water proof glue and firestarter.

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




Silver Birch - Silhouette

Image by oddsock via Flickr


Botanical Name:Betula
Family: Betulaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fagales
Common Name:The common name birch is derived from an old Germanic root, birka, with the Proto-Indo-European root *bherag, “white, bright; to shine.” The Proto-Germanic rune berkanan is named after the birch. The botanic name Betula is from the original Latin.Birch is the name of any tree of the genus Betula (Bé-tu-la), in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae.Bhurjapatra,Betula utilis.

Parts Used:Leaves, bark, sap.
Habitat: Native to Europe from the northern Mediterranean regions to Siberia and to temperate regions of Asia, it is also found in North America. Grows in mostly of northern temperate climates.

Description:The tree is handsomely deciduous, reaching 100 feet in height, with pale gray papery bark, toothed leaves, and catkins in the spring. The birch flourishes in woods, thickets, and in private gardens. The leaves are collected in the wild during the spring.The simple leaves may be toothed or pointed. The fruit is a small samara, although the wings may be obscure in some species. They differ from the alders (Alnus, other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are not woody and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds, unlike the woody cone-like female alder catkins.


The bark of all birches is characteristically marked with long horizontal lenticels, and often separates into thin papery plates, especially upon the Paper Birch. It is practically imperishable, due to the resinous oil which it contains. Its decided color gives the common names Red, White, Black], Silver and Yellow to different species.

The buds form early and are full grown by midsummer, all are lateral, no terminal bud is formed; the branch is prolonged by the upper lateral bud. The wood of all the species is close-grained with satiny texture and capable of taking a fine polish; its fuel value is fair.

The leaves of the different species vary but little. All are alternate, doubly serrate, feather-veined, petiolate, and stipulate. Apparently they often appear in pairs, but these pairs are really borne on spur-like two-leaved lateral branchlets.

Flower and fruit
The flowers are monoecious, opening with or before the leaves and borne on three-flowered clusters in the axils of the scales of drooping or erect aments. Staminate aments are pendulous, clustered or solitary in the axils of the last leaves of the branch of the year or near the ends of the short lateral branchlets of the year. They form in early autumn and remain rigid during the winter. The scales of the staminate aments when mature are broadly ovate, rounded, yellow or orange color below the middle, dark chestnut brown at apex. Each scale bears two bractlets and three sterile flowers, each flower consisting of a sessile, membranaceous, usually two-lobed, calyx. Each calyx bears four short filaments with one-celled anthers or strictly, two filaments divided into two branches, each bearing a half-anther. Anther cells open longitudinally. The pistillate aments (catkins) are erect or pendulous, solitary; terminal on the two-leaved lateral spur-like branchlets of the year. The pistillate scales are oblong-ovate, three-lobed, pale yellow green often tinged with red, becoming brown at maturity. These scales bear two or three fertile flowers, each flower consisting of a naked ovary. The ovary is compressed, two-celled, and crowned with two slender styles; the ovule is solitary.

The ripened pistillate ament is called a strobile and bears tiny winged nuts, packed in the protecting curve of each brown and woody scale. These nuts are pale chestnut brown, compressed, crowned by the persistent stigmas. The seed fills the cavity of the nut. The cotyledons are flat and fleshy. All the species are easily grown from seed.

Birches often form even-aged stands on light, well-drained, particularly acidic soils. They are regarded as pioneer species, rapidly colonising open ground especially in secondary successional sequences following a disturbance or fire. Birches are early tree species to establish in primary successions and can become a threat to heathland if the seedlings and saplings are not suppressed by grazing or periodic burning. Birches are generally lowland species, but some species such as Betula nana have a montane distribution. Birch is used as a food plant by the larvae of a large number of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) species, see List of Lepidoptera that feed on birches.

Birch wood is fine-grained and pale in colour, often with an attractive satin-like sheen. Ripple figuring may occur, increasing the value of the timber for veneer and furniture-making. The highly-decorative Masur (or Karelian) birch, from Betula verrucosa var. carelica has ripple texture combined with attractive dark streaks and lines. Birch wood is suitable for veneer, and birch ply is among the strongest and most dimensionally-stable plywoods, although it is unsuitable for exterior use.

Due to birch pulp’s short-fibre qualities, this hardwood can be used to make printing paper. In India the thin bark coming off in winter was used as writing paper. This has excellent life. The paper is known as bhoorj patra. Bhoorj is the Sanskrit name of tree and patra means paper. This bark also has been used widely in ancient Russia as note paper (beresta) and for decorative purposes and even making footwear — lapti.

Extracts of birch are used for flavoring or leather oil, and in cosmetics such as soap or shampoo. In the past, commercial oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate) was made from the Sweet Birch (Betula lenta). Birch tar or Russian Oil, extracted from birch bark, is thermoplastic and waterproof; it was used as a glue on, for example, arrows, and also for medicinal purposes.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is Finland’s national tree. Occasionally one uses leafy, fragrant twigs of silver birch to gently beat oneself in a sauna. The twigs are called vihta or vasta. This has a relaxing effect on the muscles.

Birch leaves make a diuretic tea and to make extracts for dyes and cosmetics.

Ground birch bark, fermented in sea water, is used for seasoning the woolen, hemp or linen sails and hemp rope of traditional Norwegian boats.

Birch twigs were bound in a bundle, also called birch, to be used for birching, a form of corporal punishment.

Many of the First Nations of North America prized the birch for its bark, which due to its light weight, flexibility, and the ease with which it could be stripped from fallen trees, was often used for the construction of strong, waterproof but lightweight canoes, bowls, and wigwams.

Birch is used as firewood due to its high calorific value per unit weight and unit volume. Birch is prized by the Sami people as it burns well, without popping, even when frozen and freshly hewn. The bark is also used in starting fires. The bark will burn very well, even when wet, because of the oils it contains. With care, the bark can be split into very thin sheets that will ignite from even the smallest of sparks.

Birches also have spiritual importance in several religions, both modern and historical.

Birch ply is made from laminations of birch veneer. It is light but strong and has many other good properties. Birch ply is used to make longboards (skateboard), giving it a strong yet flexy ride. It is also used (often in very thin grades with many laminations) for making model aircraft.

Baltic Birch is among the most sought after wood in the manufacture of speaker cabinets. Birch has a natural resonance that peaks in the high and low frequencies, which are also the hardest for speakers to reproduce. This resonance compensates for the roll-off of low and high frequencies in the speakers, and evens the tone. Birch is known for having “natural EQ.”

Drums are often made from Birch. Prior to the 1970s, Birch was one of the most popular drum woods. Because of the need for greater volume and midrange clarity, drums were made almost entirely from maple until recently, when advancements in live sound reinforcement and drum mics have allowed the use of Birch in high volume situations. Birch drums have a natural boost in the high and low frequencies, which allow the drums to sound fuller.

Birch wood is sometimes used as a tonewood for semi-acoustic and acoustic guitar bodies and occasionally used for solid-body guitar bodies. Birch wood is also a common material used in mallets for keyboard percussion.


In Belarus, Russia, the Baltic States, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and parts of northern China, birch sap is consumed as a refreshing beer, and is believed to have tonic qualities. It is watery and pale green in color, with a slightly sweet flavor, and is bottled commercially. Birch sap may also be made into kvass. The sap of particular birch species may also be rendered into birch syrup, vinegar, birch wine (which most often turns out a sparkling wine, although Grythyttan Vin AB of Sweden also produces a still birch wine), birch beer (a soft drink similar to root beer), and other foods. In contrast to maple syrup, birch syrup is very difficult to produce, making it more expensive than other food syrups. It is also considerably less sweet than maple syrup and the sap for syrup production is not available until a month later than maple’s. The syrup is made mainly in Alaska (from Alaska Birch) and Russia (from several species), and more rarely elsewhere.

Xylitol can also be extracted from birch, a sugar alcohol artificial sweetener, which has shown effectiveness in preventing, and in some cases repairing, tooth decay.

According to the Food Network series Unwrapped, birch is a preferred wood for the manufacture of toothpicks.

Medicinal uses:

Key Actions:
In northern latitudes birch is considered to be the most important allergenic tree pollen, with an estimated 15-20% of hay fever sufferers sensitive to birch pollen grains.

The chaga mushroom is an adaptogen that grows on white birch trees, extracting the birch constituents and is used as a remedy for cancer.

The bark is high in betulin and betulinic acid, phytochemicals which have potential as pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals which show promise as industrial lubricants.

Birch bark can be soaked until moist in water, and then formed into a cast for a broken arm.

The inner bark of birch can be ingested safely.

A German study indicated that the leaves were useful in treating bacterial and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract.

*infusion made from the leaves for the removal of waste products in the urine thereby treating kidney and bladder stones, rheumatic conditions, and gout.

*sap as a diuretic
oil or expressed liquid from the leaves in preparations for eczema, psoriasis, and other chronic skin complaints.

*lotions made from decoctions for chronic skin problems

*ointment for rheumatism and gout

*decoction of the bark on chronic skin conditions

Traditional Uses:-
*Birch tar is a clear, dark brown oil obtained through a distillation process and used for parasitic infestations of the skin and other chronic skin complaints. It is also a constituent of Unguentum contra scabiem used in the treatment of scabies.

*The leaves are used with other diuretic herbs to reduce fluid retention and swellings.

*The bark can be macerated in oil and applied to rheumatic joints.

*The Himalyayan Silver Birch is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for convulsions, dysentery, hemorrhages, and skin diseases.

*Mexicans use the leaves in a diuretic tea.

Ayurvedic Uses:
Ear disorders, bile disorders, anomalies of blood, psychological disorders, anti-obesity, anti-toxin.

Click to see:->Birch Herb Description – Drug Interactions, Dosage and Some of Its Useful Properties – Ayurveda

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.


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