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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

06 February, 2011

Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

Ladies and gentleman, our next guest tree needs no introduction from me! There can be no one, surely, who does not know the wonderfully elegant Silver Birch.

This tree is at its best in spring when dressed in a covering of light green fresh leaves but even in winter it has a certain delicacy about it.

In Dorset this is a very common tree on our wet heathland but it also occurs all over the County, especially, but not exclusively, where it is a bit damp. The Silver Birch freely self seeds and establishes itself. In some areas they have to be taken out to stop them dominating and overwhelming other forms of vegetation. They are one of our native trees and very good for wildlife in general.

The 'silver' bark is unique, it is the defining feature of this tree and makes identification possible from even quite a way off. On younger trees the bark is almost unblemished but as it grows larger and older so warty areas appear and that is why this is sometimes called the Warty Birch.

The Silver Birch grows quickly but has a fairly short life span of about thirty years. As it ages often the common Birch polypore fungus takes hold and the tree dies. The fungus itself is fascinating as it starts out brown on top and white underneath but as it dries out it takes on the same colouring and appearance as its host and you would think it was all part of the natural tree itself.