Birch trees are deciduous trees. There are around a hundred different species of birch in Europe, which together form a genus. Birch trees are easily recognized by their black and white bark. The birch wood is light and has a fine grain. It is flexible and cuts well. That’s why people like to make plates out of it.
Most people find birch trees beautiful, so they are often planted in cities. But more and more people are also having difficulties with birches: a large amount of pollen from the flowers irritates their eyes, nose, and lungs. These people have an allergy, specifically hay fever. Some people suffer greatly from it.
Birch trees are important to many species of birds, giving them buds and seeds for food. There are also over a hundred species of caterpillars that love to eat birch leaves. The birches are the third plant genus in the order of the most popular butterfly plants.
The birch is the symbol of Estonia. In Russia, Finland, and Poland, the tree is considered a national symbol, much like the “German oak”.
How do birch trees grow?
Birch trees often grow where there were no plants before. Because they are then the first, they are called pioneer plants. The soil can be wet or dry for birches. We grow on dunes as well as on moors or in the heath.
Birch trees reproduce in a special way. There are male and female flowers, but both grow on the same tree. The male catkins hang downwards and are shaped like small sausages. The female catkins are erect. Birch trees don’t need bees for pollination, the wind does that here. That’s why it needs so much pollen.
Small nuts form in the flowers, these are the seeds. They have hard shells like hazelnuts. Some also have a small wing, similar to the maples. This allows them to fly a little further away from the trunk and spread more easily.
What do people use from the birch trees?
Birch trees were already used by people in the Stone Age. They made glue out of the juice. They used it to attach a stone wedge to a handle, for example, and thus obtained an axe. Even in the Middle Ages, some hunters coated birch trees with this glue, which was called “bad luck”. Many birds then got stuck on it and were then eaten. When attacking a castle, the defenders poured hot pitch on the attackers. From these applications came the expression “unlucky” which we still use today.
In the past, birch wood was used to make clothes pegs or clogs. Today the logs are turned on an axis and a thin layer is cut off around the outside. The layers are laid lengthwise and crosswise on top of each other and there is the glue in between. In this way, very stable laminated wood panels are obtained.
You can cut the bark of birch and hang a bucket under the cut. You can use the sap that then runs out, just like with the maple or the rubber tree. Together with sugar, you can cook a delicious drink from it.
In addition to the juice, you can also use the bark and leaves. Vitamin C, hair loss shampoos, leather tanning agents, and many other things are obtained from it. You can eat a lot of birch leaves. The wood will burn even when it is fresh and wet because it contains so much oil.