How To Grow Silver Birch Trees

How To Grow Silver Birch Trees

Silver Birch Trees are pioneering species, meaning they are often the first trees to grow on desolate land. The silver birch tree grows in any soil and the seeds are so light they can be carried by the wind for up to one mile.

Silver Birch (Betula Pendula) grows in some of the poorest of soils making them a Hardy species that prefer full sunlight.

There leaves are relatively small at 3 – 7cm. In the summer the leaves are a bright green turning red, orange and yellow during winter (fall).

The flowers contain the seeds, packed into little catkins that can be collected from August onwards. These tiny lightweight seeds are so small and light that the wind can carry them up to one mile from the parent tree.

The birch’s value:

As this tree is deemed a pioneer species, it is normally the first to be seen in sites which are being regenerated, like ex-agricultural land. The tree has nitrogen fixing nodules on its roots, which help nutrify the soil, and “prepare it” for any future plants or trees.

The larvae of a large number of species of butterflies, moths and other insects feed on the leaves and other parts of the silver birch.

In Germany, almost 500 species of insect have been found on silver and downy birch including 106 beetles and 105 lepidopterans, with 133 insect species feeding almost exclusively on birch.

The bark on mature trees is mostly white and comes off in slices. The bark of a younger tree starts a dark purple/brown colour which, after a few years, turns orange and then finally white.

Sap can be extracted from the tree and is believed to have medicinal purposes. The bark is oily and is often used to demonstrate starting fires by bushcraft experts by scraping the bark into a fine powder.

The bark can also be boiled and reduce to create a very effective glue.

How To Collect Birch Tree Seeds

You will need to wait until after August to collect the seeds from a Birch Tree. Clear the area below the tree for more efficient collection. It’s best to wait until the catkins begin to turn brown. When the catkins change from green to brown, which look like elongated fir cones, carefully remove them from the tree or collect ones that have fallen to the ground.

Carefully place them somewhere sheltered, warm and dry. Eventually the seeds will seperate. The seeds are very small and light.

How To Plant Silver Birch Seeds For Germination

Once the seeds have dried, (very important so that they don’t rot) you can then Soak them in water for 24 hours. Drain the water carefully and set the seeds aside to dry again.

The seeds need a period of stratification to germinate, or you could plant them and leave through the cold winter months where they may then germinate in the spring naturally.

Place the seeds into a bag filled with 50% sand and 50% compost. Place them in a fridge (not a freezer) for 4 – 6 weeks.

Remove the Silver Birch Trees from the fridge and lay them out on some potting compost. Cover with just a light dusting of compost ( 1 – 2mm) and then store them somewhere such as a greenhouse but ensure it’s not too hot.

You could grow them outside if there is no frost. The best time to plant would be in April but even planting mid season will give them a chance to grow to a reasonable height.

Silver Birch Trees are fast growing and it’s not uncommon to see 40 – 50cm of growth in the first year when planted in April.

When the seedlings begin to grow, thin out the strongest ones and plant in pots. Be gentle doing this.

Be sure to water the plants frequently, young Birch Trees need a lot of water. You will also need to add organic fertiliser a couple of times a year.

After 2 years growing in the pot, the Birch Tree Saplings should reach a height of 50 – 80cm at which point they can be planted into their final growing position. Ensure you protect the bark from opportunists such as deer, squirrels and rabbits.

Alternatively, you could buy some saplings from here…

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