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Betula pendula (silver birch)

The silver birch is a temperate tree, grown as an ornamental plant, also for its timber. It is used for a range of purposes, from broom-making and steeple-chase fencing to medicines.
Trunk and branches of the silver birch tree

Trunk and branches of Betula pendula (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Betula pendula

Common name: 

silver birch

Conservation status: 

Common and not threatened in the UK.


Found as major component of woodlands on light soil, especially acid heaths.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, timber, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Betula

About this species

One of the most familiar trees of the British countryside, the graceful silver birch is a genuine native, growing here since the end of the Ice Age. Its papery-white bark – almost pink in young trees – distinguishes it from the downy birch (Betula pubescens) which has reddish bark that turns grey with age and is usually found in wetter habitats in the uplands.

Birches produce an abundance of sap in spring and a cut stump will ‘bleed' for weeks. In North America, a species of woodpecker called the sapsucker taps birch trees in spring by cutting small wells in the bark and drinking the sap, which oozes out.


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