Silver birch is a familiar, small, spindly tree with thin branches and papery bark. It is found on heathland, moorland and mountainsides, as well as on dry, sandy soils. One of the first trees to recolonise the UK after the last glacial period, silver birch is an opportunistic species; its seeds are produced in huge numbers and dispersed easily by the wind.
Birches are easily recognised by their white, papery bark. The silver birch can be distinguished from the similar downy birch by its more triangular leaves, with jagged teeth, growing from hairless leaf stalks. It also has droopier branches and leaves.
Height: up to 30m
When to see
January – December
- The silver birch is the preferred food for two species of shield bug: the birch shield bug and the parent bug, both of which can both be found feeding on the catkins in the late summer.
- Birch wood is tough and hard-wearing, so it was often used to make sturdy furniture or tools for the cotton industry. Unfortunately, birch trees in the UK are not so useful as a source of wood because they do not grow as large as they do in mainland Europe.