Often perceived as a weed, this rapidly growing pioneer species is a friend of the woodsman or woodswoman and can fulfil many needs. It’s easy to recognise by its distinctive silvery bark and matchstick-thin twigs with a purple-burgundy sheen to them. Its leaves are relatively small, shiny and arrowhead-shaped. A mature tree in leaf can resemble a fizzy drink squirting from a bottle.
Bushcraft and survival uses:
- Birch bark is one of nature’s best firelighters, due to its high natural oil content;
- The leaves contain saponins, a natural soap;
- The wood carves easily to make spoons and other utensils.
Birch trees belong to the genus Betula and are classified as part of the Betulaceae family. Their beautiful bark and leaves make them a common choice for the landscape. They are water lovers, which can be great if you have soil that tends to be moist. However, the roots might head for your plumbing pipes if a large tree is planted too close to your house. Don't let this deter you, though; these are magnificent trees and should definitely be considered for inclusion in your landscape.