91127Like a flower girl scatters rose petals ahead of a wedding procession, European white birch, Betula pendula, tosses its small deltoid leaves soon after turning soft yellow with autumn chill. Color may not last long on the trees, but becomes a delightful mess for those who appreciate such assets. The primary allure though, is the slender strikingly white trunks, accented with black furrowing.

European white birch is very informal, but also elegant enough for formal landscapes. To best display their gently leaning white trunks, they are popularly planted in relaxed groups. Their canopies are neither broad nor dense, so a few fit together nicely. As lower branches get pruned away, pendulous upper branches sway softly in the breeze. Mature trees are mostly less than fifty feet tall.

Himalayan birch, Betula utilis or Betula jacquemontii, which has become more popular than European white birch since the 1990s, has a completely different personality. Its strictly vertical trunks and upright growth are appealing separately, but incompatible with European white birch. When adding trees to an established grove of any birch, it is very important to procure more of the same.

5 thoughts on “European White Birch

  1. My favorite birch is the Paper Birch, but it is not a good choice for this area – summers are too hot. B. pendula is grown here, but I think is usually called Yellow Birch. The most common birch here is River Birch, though it often suffers from being poorly sited.

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    1. Is river birch native too? I see it only rarely. I am none too keen on it because most that I have worked with are in bad situation. So-called ‘landscapers’ try to use it like European white birch or yellow birch (Betula pendula). It is . . . okay, but nothing to brag about. I have never seen a paper birch here, but have heard of them.


      1. Yes, it is native. It’s big selling point is supposed to be the peeling bark, though that’s not something I get excited about. As the name implies, it likes a lot of moisture, and also likes to be planted in groups.

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      2. I find that in our mild climate, the river birch looks rather shabby, with rather brownish bark that does not look any better than that of certain melaleucas. European white birch is not as happy here as it is in other climates, but it does not complain much. Himalayan birch is probably the best here, but I dislike it very much when it gets added to established groves of European white birch, as if it is the same. It looks great in groves of its own.


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