Silver birch

Silver Birch

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Silver Birch

©Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Silver Birch

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Silver birch

Scientific name: Betula pendula
A spindly tree of heathland and moorlands, and dry and sandy soils, the Silver birch is well known for its paper-thin, white bark. It is a great coloniser and can quickly spread in an area.

Species information


Height: up to 30m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Silver birch is a familiar, small, spindly tree with thin branches and papery bark. It is found on heathland, moorland and mountainsides, as well as on dry, sandy soils. In spring, the male catkins (or 'lamb's tails') turn yellow and shed their pollen, which is carried by the wind to the short, green, female catkins that appear on the same tree. One of the first trees to recolonise the UK after the last glacial period, it is an opportunistic species; its seeds are produced in huge numbers and dispersed easily by the wind.

How to identify

Birches are easily recognised by their white, papery bark. The Silver birch has 'drooping' branches and triangular leaves, with jagged teeth that grow from hairless leaf stalks. The leaves of the similar Downy Birch grow from hairy stalks and more rounded; it also has more upright branches.



Did you know?

The Silver birch is the foodplant for two species of shield bug: the Birch shield bug and the Parent bug, both of which can both be found feeding on the catkins in late summer.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working to restore and protect our heathlands by promoting good management, clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes. This work is vital if these habitats are to survive; you can help by supporting your local Wildlife Trust and becoming a member or volunteer.