Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis jacquemontii)

A tree which we could have highlighted many times throughout the year as it always stands out due to its signature chalk white bark. At the start of the year when we have returned to work and stuck in the middle of a cold wet winter, the vibrancy of the white bark contrasts with the dull weather and our mood!

Throughout the year, Himalayan Birch is a tree that always provides interest. In early spring, yellow catkins appear, closely followed by small dark green leaves which lighter on the underside can appear to shimmer in a breeze. With its slender and slightly arching branches the small leaves form a canopy that creates a light dappled shade. During the autumn the leaves turn a rich golden yellow before they fall.

Himalayan birch has a long history and association with gardening. It's considered equally as a traditional parkland tree or as a contemporary tree within a modern garden. It is renown for being a gardeners favourite because of its resilience to disease, suitability to a range of soil types and less aggressive roots. For this reason, Birch trees are also referred to as  a Pioneer species; trees which are often the among the first to emerge on cleared ground or to spring up after a forest fire.

Photo Credit: Colin McAlister 

Native to the Himalayas, the tree was first discovered in Nepal in 1841, originally classified as Betula jacquemontii before being realised as a variety of utilis. In Latin utilis means something that has many uses. The most common of these traits is its peeling bark for paper. Historically this was a common use for writing lengthy scriptures texts in Sanskrit up until the 16th century. The bark is still used for writing sacred mantras and more currently as packaging material for butter, umbrella covers, bandages and roofing material. The wood is used for bridge construction and widely for firewood. The sap of the tree has also medicinal uses. 

Where to find it?

This tree is a bit of chameleon in that it’s suited to many places. It can be grown as a clear stem or multi stem and planted as a specimen or within a large or small group.

Photo Credit: Paul Hunter

Along the Greenway, birch is planted collectively at C.S. Lewis Square around the Wardrobe sculpture and behind the White Witch where the white bark portrays her frozen kingdom. It is also planted as a parkland tree throughout the Greenway.

Be Part of it…

If you have not managed to get out and see the sculptures in C.S. Lewis Square now is the perfect time to see them in all their glory particularly on a frosty cold morning!

As always, we would love to see your pictures…