One of the trees in our garden, which we grew from a small sapling that we took from the hedgerow many years ago, is the Silver Birch, (Betula pendula) or in Gaelic it is called Beith Gheal. This tree is native to Ireland.
A fellow blogger on WordPress.com (www.solarbeez.wordpress.com) had recently been instrumental in helping me to focus my attention on to the Birch tree, and I am glad about that, as I discovered quite a bit about this beautiful tree.
Our 30 year old tree stands over 8meter high, which is no wonder because as a species it is the more upright birch growing in this country. Its trunk and branches are covered in greyish white bark, actually quite striking to look at. In literature it says that the tree is quite ok if you want to plant something underneath, and I found that out already and have several raised beds underneath it full of good crops. The sun filters through the shivery little leaves in summer, giving quite enough light for growing crops. In spring it gets catkins, and in autumn, right now there are little brown cones hanging in between the yellowing leaves. The seeds are dispersed from the cones, they are small and are carried by the wind, or they fall to the ground still in the little cones.
The other native Birch is the Betula pubescens or Downy Birch, both trees grow wild in the bog lands of Ireland, but the silver Birch, being shallow rooted, is able to survive and even thrive in wet boggy or poor soil. What I like so much about our Birch tree is the sound made by the breeze lightly blowing through it, a summery sound. We also hear and see the tree nearly blowing over on stormy nights, I read that because of its shallow roots the tree is not very steadfast in the soil and could blow over, ours is only about 10 metres from the house and towering high above it, from time to time it loses some of its branches in high winds. A reason why at times I have thought to cut it down, it is rather top heavy. But then I see how many birds use that Birch, how many birds sing in this tree, and I quickly decide to keep it. I also love its bark, now a days I have to clear the ivy which is in competition with me and grows twice as fast up the trunk as I can think of removing it. Rooks and jackdaws alike tear off young twigs to use in nest building, we have many Rooks around.
Just recently I noticed two little birds who were flittering between the trees branches, trying to eat something, I think the seeds, they hovered in the air to try and get at them. Their sound in the air is rather like a thousand little silver shavings being disturbed by hands. I still have not identified them.
In early Celtic mythology the tree represented renewal and purification. More practically it has also been used medicinally, the timber has been used in making toys, the branches used for making brooms, it is said that the branches were employed as fuel in the distillation of whiskey, the spray used for smoking hams and herrings. Even today the Birch is a much used tree.
I am glad that I learnt a bit more about it.