Every person who lives from the tundra to the subtropics knows what a birch looks like. Such a tree is found in the wild quite widely, while specialists have discovered more than 120 species. Most of these types are successfully used in the manufacture of furniture, as well as in the chemical industry. Its bright white trunk, decorated with black stripes, makes this tree one of the most memorable symbols of Russia. Birch can be found in almost any mid-latitude forest. It is also widely used for landscaping city squares, parks, and alleys. Also, birch can often be found in garden plots, as it can become the main decoration of any landscape.
Features of birch
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The name of the tree “birch” comes from the Proto-Slavic Berza, which means “to glow, to whiten”. Moreover, its Latin name Betula comes from the Gaulish language. This genus is represented by deciduous trees. Moreover, it is considered the most numerous genus in the entire Northern Hemisphere. There are more than 100 species in the genus, and he himself belongs to the Birch family.
For the Scandinavian, Slavic, and Finno-Ugric cultures, this plant has not only important everyday but also historical and ritual significance.
Description of birch:
- Height. In most species, it varies from 30 to 45 meters. You can also meet creeping and dwarf varieties, as well as shrubs.
- Trunk coverage. It ranges from 120 to 150 centimeters.
- Root system. It can be superficial or buried, and obliquely extending into the depths of the soil. It depends directly on the type of birch, as well as on the conditions under which it grows. As a rule, the root system is powerful and branched.
- Bark. The most common bark is white, but it can also be brown, pink, or pale yellow. However, in nature, you can also meet such species, the bark of which is colored brown, gray, almost black. The outer layer of the bark peels off easily. At the same time, in old specimens, the lower part of the trunk is covered with a thick bark of a dark color, on the surface of which there are many deep cracks. The surface of young stems is usually covered with a brownish-red bark, on which there are many small growths.
- Foliage. Small leaf plates have a smooth surface and an ovoid-triangular shape. Their edge is serrated. Their width is about 40 mm, and its length is up to 70 mm. They are painted in a deep green hue, which changes to bright yellow with the onset of autumn. Young leaf plates have a sticky coating.
- Inflorescences. Scientifically, they are called earring thyrsus. The complex inflorescence includes both female and male flowers. At the ends of the shortened shoots, female flowers bloom, and male ones – on long ones. Depending on the species and climatic conditions, birch blossoms begin from March to June. When female flowers are pollinated, male ones fly around.
- The fruit. It is a slightly flattened nutlet with webbed thin wings of a small size. Since the fruits are very light, they are easily spread by the wind. So, a gust of wind can carry them away from the parent tree up to a hundred meters.
- Life expectancy. On average, this figure is from 100 to 300 years. However, there are also species that live longer.
Birch is an important forest-forming species. It is she who contributes to the creation of a characteristic landscape in the vast territory of North America and Eurasia. Such a plant can be found even beyond the Arctic Circle; in addition, it forms the upper border of mountain forests. Some species in the wild grow even in Southeast Asia and Africa.
This plant is distinguished by its undemanding level of humidity, as well as the composition of the soil. Such a tree grows normally on sea and river banks, on dry steppes, swamps, as well as rocky slopes. The only birch is a light-loving plant, but some species grow quite normally in shady areas.
Planting birch in open ground
Experts do not recommend growing birch in your garden. The fact is that it contributes to the drying out of the soil, as well as the oppression of crops growing in the immediate vicinity. You should choose a planting site that is located away from shrubs and fruit trees. And in order for the birch not to deplete the soil on the site, it must be fed and watered on time.
In order for the planting of a seedling to be successful, you need to adhere to certain rules:
- For planting a seedling in open ground, the beginning of the spring period is best suited. During this time, the seedling experiences minimal planting stress. If you wish, you can plant it in the autumn, but in this case, the tree should have a voluminous lump of the earth on the roots, and its age should not be more than three years. If the seedling is more than three years old, then it can be planted in the open ground even in winter, since at this time the clod of earth is frozen and does not crumble.
- When preparing the soil on the site for planting birch, it is imperative to take into account on which soil a particular species grows in natural conditions. However, most of the species are distinguished by their unpretentiousness, they will grow normally in any soil. As for the acidity of the soil, it can also be different. At the bottom of the planting hole, a drainage layer is laid out, the thickness of which should be about 15 centimeters. To make a suitable soil mixture, you need to combine 1 part of peat and 2 parts of sand and earth.
- The planting hole should be of such a size that the seedling earth clod completely fits into it. After the plant is placed in the hole, it should be covered with soil mixture so that the earth slightly covers the root collar. Remember that if you deepen the root system too deeply, this can slow down the growth of the plant, and in some cases, this leads to its death. The fact is that when the roots are buried, the mycorrhiza fungus, which lives on their surface, dies.
- If you are planting several seedlings at once, then the minimum distance between them should be from 3 to 4 meters.
- A newly planted tree should be watered abundantly. Also, the soil in the near-stem circle is moistened for several more days.
A young tree is slow-growing. After he turns 4, it begins to grow much faster. The average tree growth rate is 100 cm per year.
Birch is undemanding to care for. Do not forget to systematically moisten the soil in the near-trunk circle in the summer, while making sure that it does not dry out. In addition, it is necessary from time to time to loosen the surface of the soil mixture in the near-trunk circle, while the maximum loosening depth should be 30–50 mm, which will not injure the root system. Also, do not forget to cover the surface of the trunk circle with a layer of mulch about 10 centimeters thick, for this you can use peat, sawdust, or compost.
It is recommended to feed the plant in early spring, at a time when there is still no foliage on the branches. You can use a nutrient mixture consisting of 10 liters of water, 10 g of urea, 1 kg of manure, and 15 g of ammonium nitrate. Re-feeding, if necessary, can be carried out in the last spring weeks. The amount of dressing depends on the age of the plant: if it is 10–20 years old, 3 buckets of the solution will be enough, and an older specimen will need 5 buckets.
Seedlings after planting in the first 6 months need a garter to a peg, which will protect them from the wind. The plant does not need formative pruning, but in the springtime, it needs to cut off broken and dried stems.
Growing from seeds
Birch reproduces well by self-sowing. Sowing of seeds is carried out in autumn and spring, in the latter case they are stratified for about 8 weeks at a temperature of 0 to 5 degrees. The longer the seed is stored, the worse it emerges.
This tree is rarely propagated by cuttings. The fact is that only about 10 percent of the cuttings take root.
Diseases and pests
Most often, such pests settle on birch as:
- A silkworm caterpillar. Eats foliage, leaving only streaks. Shake off the pests and apply an insecticidal treatment.
- Pipe-runner beetle. Damages foliage and young branches. Cut the damaged parts and destroy them with fire. Next, dig up the trunk circle and spray with an insecticidal agent.
Such a tree is often affected by fungal diseases. For example, a tinder fungus can settle on it, which contributes to the destruction of the wood. Cut off any growths and treat the affected areas with a fungicide.
Types of birches with photos
The genus Birch belongs to the Birch family and unites 119 species. Common birch (Betula Alba), or white birch, is distinguished by the fact that it is widespread throughout the European territory. White birch includes 2 types:
Hanging Birch (Betula Pendula)
This species is popularly called warty, silver, weeping, hanging (drooping), and also white European. In height, such a tree can reach about 30 meters. While the plant is young, its bark is brown. When the tree is 10 years old, its bark begins to turn white. There are a large number of growths on the surface of the branches, which is why the plant is called “warty”. The stems sag, which is a characteristic feature of this species.
Downy Birch (Betula Pubescens)
This type is also called pubescent birch, or curly (fluffy). Its height is about 25 meters. The trunk of young trees is covered with brownish-red bark, which after a while becomes snow-white. Branches growing upward form a wide and spreading crown. This species is frost-resistant, and it also grows normally in shaded or swampy areas.
To date, the name “white birch” is used extremely rarely, as confusion often arose because of it.
Also related to this type:
- Flat-leaved birch. It is also called Asian or Japanese white. It grows in Siberia, as well as in cold and temperate Asian regions (Japan, China, and Korea). Such a plant is quite often used for cities, and it is also often grown in adjoining territories. The most common varieties of this species are Whitespire, Fargo, Szechuanica.
- American white birch, or canoe, or paper. Under natural conditions, it is common in Canada and the United States, and in culture, it is rather successfully grown in European countries. The species is distinguished by its unpretentiousness, it is drought-resistant, and also grows normally in wetlands. The wood of such a birch, which has a pale red color and is easily polished, is especially appreciated. The most popular varieties are Renaissane Reflection, Vancouver, St. Gerge.
Also, among the many types of birch, the following stand out:
- Red birch, or sweet, or cherry, or stringy. The species grow in North America. Its bark is almost black or brownish-red. The plant reaches a height of about 25 meters, while the crown of a young plant has a pyramidal shape. After some time, the crown takes on the shape of a ball, while the branches become sagging. There are clearly visible cracks on the surface of the cherry-colored bark. Differs in average resistance to frost, the variety can be used for cultivation in regions with a mild warm climate.
- Erman’s birch, or stone. This low-growing tree reaches a height of about 15 meters. The most widespread species is in the Far East. The surface of the curved trunk is covered with a dark bark, which after some time cracks strongly. Such a tree is long-lived (up to 400 years), and it is also distinguished by its unpretentiousness.
- Black birch. The species has a thick trunk, a height of about 30 meters, while it is thermophilic. The crown is openwork, the shape of the leaf plates is oval.
- Dwarf. In nature, it is found only in the tundra, while it prefers mountainous terrain. The species has an external resemblance to a strongly branching shrub.
- Karelian. The slow-growing tree reaches a height of about 8 meters, while it can look like a tall shrub. The species possesses very valuable wood.
The Himalayan and Canadian birches possess snow-white bark. The fact is that it needs to reflect a very large amount of ultraviolet rays from the sun. Most of the birch species are frost-resistant. All thermophilic species are native to the southern regions.
Birch in landscape design
Birch is often planted on a personal plot or used for landscaping a city. She looks great both in solo and in group seating. And the tree also goes well with other deciduous ones, for example: with alder, willow, maple, mountain ash, or bird cherry. Birch is distinguished by its unpretentiousness and resistance to gas pollution in large cities. It is not uncommon to see birch alleys near busy roads, which act as protective belts.
Since this tree is deciduous, a single planting will require a systematic cleaning of the area from loose leaves.
This highly decorative plant has a rich foliage color (the color changes during the growing season), a spectacular color of the bark, and an openwork dense crown. In rock gardens and Japanese gardens, stunted and dwarf species are often used.