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Edible uses


Inner bark - cooked or dried, ground into a powder then used with cereals for making bread etc[1][2][3]. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply[177, K].

Sap - raw or cooked. A sweet flavour[1][2][4]. Harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk. The flow is best on sunny days following a heavy frost. The sap is often concentrated into a sugar by boiling off the water. Between 4 and 7 litres can be drawn off a mature tree in a day and this will not kill the tree so long as the tap hole is filled up afterwards[5]. However, prolonged or heavy tapping will kill the tree. A beer can be fermented from the sap. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- \"To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr'd together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm'd. When it is sufficiently boil'd, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work...and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.\"[6]. Young leaves - raw or cooked[2][4]. Young catkins[2]. No more details are given.

A tea is made from the leaves[2] and another tea is made from the essential oil in the inner bark[7].


Inner bark


Unknown part


Material uses

The bark is used to make drinking vessels, canoe skins, roofing tiles etc. It is waterproof, durable, tough and resinous[8][9]. Only the outer bark is removed, this does not kill the tree. It is most easily removed in late spring to early summer. The bark was pressed flat and stored until the following spring. When required for making canoes it would be heated over a fire to make it pliable for shaping to the canoe frame[10].

A pioneer species, it readily invades old fields, cleared or burnt-over land and creates conditions suitable for other woodland trees to become established. Since it is relatively short-lived and intolerant of shade, it is eventually out-competed by these trees[8][11]. A tar-oil is obtained from the white bark in spring. It has fungicidal properties and is also used as an insect repellent[12][13][9][14]. It makes a good shoe polish[9]. Another report says that an essential oil is obtained from the bark and this, called 'Russian Leather' has been used as a perfume[15]. A glue is made from the sap. Cordage can be made from the fibres of the inner bark. This inner bark can also be separated into thin layers and used as a substitute for oiled paper[12]. A decoction of the inner bark is used to preserve cordage, it is rich in tannin. The bark contains up to 16% tannin[16]. A brown dye is obtained from the inner bark. An oil similar to Wintergreen oil (obtained from Gaultheria procumbens) is obtained from the inner bark[7][9]. It is used medicinally and also makes a refreshing tea[7]. The young branches are very flexible and are used to make whisks, besoms etc[17]. They are also used in thatching and to make wattles[12]. The leaves are a good addition to the compost heap, improving fermentation[18]. A black paint is obtained from the soot of the plant[9]. A high quality charcoal is obtained from the bark. It is used by artists, painters etc.

Wood - soft, light, durable. It is used for a wide range of purposes including furniture, tool handles, carving, toys etc[14][19]. It is a source of charcoal that is used by artists and is also pulped and used for making paper[19].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Anti-inflammatory, cholagogue, diaphoretic[7][20][21].

The bark is diuretic and laxative[22]. The inner bark is bitter and astringent, it is used in treating intermittent fevers[12]. An oil obtained from the inner bark is astringent and is used in the treatment of various skin afflictions, especially eczema and psoriasis[12][19]. The bark is usually obtained from trees that have been felled for timber and can be distilled at any time of the year[19]. The buds are balsamic[22]. The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance which has acid properties, when combined with alkalis it is a tonic laxative[12]. The leaves are anticholesterolemic and diuretic[22]. They also contain phytosides, which are effective germicides[22]. An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of gout, dropsy and rheumatism, and is recommended as a reliable solvent of kidney stones[12]. The young leaves and leaf buds are harvested in the spring and dried for later use[19]. A decoction of the leaves and bark is used for bathing skin eruptions[12]. The vernal sap is diuretic[12]. The boiled and powdered wood has been applied to chafed skin[10].

Moxa is made from the yellow fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out of the fissures[12].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Canopy or Secondary canopy

Ecological Functions



Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame[23][24][25][26]. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position[23][24][26]. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame[25][26]. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help[26]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring - do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter[23][24][25][26].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Betula pubescens. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in a well-drained light loamy soil in a sunny position[8][27]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates a wet position[8][28], succeeding in poorly drained soils[11]. Fairly wind tolerant[27]. Prefers an acid soil.

A very ornamental tree and fast growing, capable of growing 1 metre a year but it is short-lived[11]. It is one of the first trees to colonize open land and it creates a suitable environment for other woodland trees to follow[8]. These trees eventually shade out the birch trees[11]. Trees take about 15 years from seed to produce their own seed[29]. Although closely related, it does not usually hybridize with B. pendula[8]. It hybridizes freely with B. pendula according to another report[11]. A superb tree for encouraging wildlife, it has over 200 associated insect species[28][30]. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process[13][18]. It is also a good companion plant, its root activity working to improve the soil[13].

Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus[27].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Betula pubescens. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Betula pubescens.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Betula pubescens
Imported References
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
no shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Strong wind
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Deciduous or Evergreen
Herbaceous or Woody
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
Flower Colour
Flower Type

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"image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki."image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


  1. ? Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
  2. ? Bryan. J. and Castle. C. Edible Ornamental Garden. Pitman Publishing ISBN 0-273-00098-5 (1976-00-00)
  3. ? 3.03.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  4. ? Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3874292169 (1984-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain. ()
  6. ? 6.06.1 Duke. J. Handbook of Energy Crops - (1983-00-00)
  7. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
  8. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
  9. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  10. ? Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
  11. ? Beckett. G. and K. Planting Native Trees and Shrubs. Jarrold (1979-00-00)
  12. ? 12.0012.0112.0212.0312.0412.0512.0612.0712.0812.0912.1012.11 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  13. ? Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-262-7 (1979-00-00)
  14. ? Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (1969-00-00)
  15. ? 15.015.1 Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World. Robert Hale. London. ISBN 0-7090-5440-8 (1994-00-00)
  16. ? 16.016.1 Rottsieper. E.H.W. Vegetable Tannins The Forestal Land, Timber and Railways Co. Ltd. (1946-00-00)
  17. ? 17.017.1 Mabey. R. Plants with a Purpose. Fontana ISBN 0-00-635555-2 (1979-00-00)
  18. ? Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0-88266-064-0 (1978-00-00)
  19. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  20. ? 20.020.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
  21. ? 21.021.1 Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting. Cassell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-304-34324-2 (1993-00-00)
  22. ? Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
  23. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
  24. ? McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed. Grower Books ISBN 0-901361-21-6 (1985-00-00)
  25. ? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
  26. ? Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2. Thompson and Morgan. (1988-00-00)
  27. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  28. ? 28.028.1 Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden. ()
  29. ? Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. ()
  30. ? Carter D. Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. Pan ISBN 0-330-26642-x (1982-00-00)
  31. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)

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"image:Betula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

Facts about "Betula pubescens"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyBetulaceae +
Belongs to genusBetula +
Functions asPioneer +
Has common nameWhite Birch +
Has drought toleranceIntolerant +
Has edible partFlowers +, Inner bark +, Leaves +, Sap + and Unknown part +
Has edible useUnknown use + and Tea +
Has environmental toleranceHigh wind +
Has fertility typeWind +
Has flowers of typeMonoecious +
Has growth rateVigorous +
Has hardiness zone1 +
Has imageBetula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG +
Has lifecycle typePerennial +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useAdhesive +, Besom +, Charcoal +, Compost +, Dye +, Essential +, Fibre +, Fungicide +, Paper +, Polish +, Repellent +, Tannin +, Thatching +, Waterproofing + and Wood +
Has mature height20 +
Has mature width10 +
Has medicinal partUnknown part +
Has medicinal useAntirheumatic +, Astringent +, Bitter +, Diaphoretic +, Diuretic +, Lithontripic +, Miscellany + and Skin +
Has primary imageBetula-pubescens-downy-leaves.JPG +
Has search namebetula pubescens + and x +
Has shade toleranceNo shade +
Has soil ph preferenceVery acid +, Acid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
Has soil teclayture preferenceClay +
Has soil teheavy clayture preferenceHeavy clay +
Has soil teloamyture preferenceLoamy +
Has soil tesandyture preferenceSandy +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomy nameBetula pubescens +
Has water requirementshigh +
Inhabits ecosystem nicheCanopy + and Secondary canopy +
Is deciduous or evergreenDeciduous +
Is herbaceous or woodyWoody +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Tolerates windYes +
Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +