All varieties of Birch (Betula) are stunning in their own right with their various bark colourings and peelings. Birch (Betula) are deciduous, hardy and will tolerate all conditions. Planted in groups they make a stunning architectural feature in a reasonable sized garden, also very effective at the waters edge.
There are several varieties of Birch tree two of the most common being Silver Birch or Betula Pendula and Birch Downy or Betula Pubescens also sometimes known as the Common White Birch. Both these varieties are deciduous native species especially the Silver Birch which is the very recognisable large conical shaped tree with peeling bark. The deep roots of Silver Birch can bring nutrients normally not accessible to other plants to the surface which are then transferred to the soil through the shedding of the leaves. It can grow to 30 metres in height so makes an attractive specimen tree with its arching branches and yellow catkins in early spring.
The Downy Birch is a wonderful variety for attracting wildlife as the leaves attract aphids which in turn attract their predators, some species of woodpecker also nest in these trees. Birch Downy will tolerate more moist soils, even waterlogged areas than the Silver Birch and can grow at higher levels but still to a height of 30 metres. The two varieties are sometimes mistaken for each other although the Downy Birch is more upright in growth and the bark slightly darker as a grey-white colour.
The leaves of Birch Downy as with the Silver birch are triangular shaped but more rounded at the base and the stems are downy, hence the name, whereas the leaf stalks of the Silver Birch are smooth. On both varieties catkins appearing in spring and the seeds from the catkins being dispersed by the wind in autumn. For a more ornamental variety of Birch the Jacquemontii or Himalayan Birch is without doubt one of best especially planted in groups as with age the bark becomes a bright white giving a stunning effect especially when planted with coloured stemmed dogwoods.