The silver birch is the pendula species within the Betula genus, which is a member of the Betulaceae family. This species originates in Europe and Asia, but can be found in other areas, including North America. The silver birch can serve a practical purpose as a shade tree, but it is also considered an ornamental selection, because of its silvery, or white, bark.
The Betula pendula has two cultivars, or varieties, the dalecarlica and the laciniata, both of which share the same genus and species designations.
A mature silver birch can reach an average height of 15 to 31.5 m (45 to 65 feet). The maximum possible height is 30 m (100 feet), which a birch will reach in ideal conditions. A mature tree's width will be anywhere between 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 feet). From late spring to summer, leaves are green to dark-green, and turn yellow to bronze to yellow-green by early autumn. A leaf can be anywhere from 2.5 to 7.5 cm (1 to 3 inches) long, and 1.2 to 3.7 cm (1/2 to 1 1/2 inches) wide. The leaf's edges are serrated, or show o.75 mm (1/16 inch), or less, grooves. Flowers and catkins, which are long, cylindrical flower clusters that fruit, or nuts, will appear in spring.
The main key to identification between the two cultivars and the main species is leaf size and shape. The dalecarlica's leaves will grow up to 7.5 cm (3 inches), and will have deeper serrations than the main pendula. The laciniata will have leaves that reach up to 5 cm (2 inches), and will have shallower serrations.
Climate and habitat
The silver birch can be found all over the UK. Within the UK climate zones, full sun to partial sun is needed. The soil should promote drainage. The silver birch can survive in arid soil, but prefers a moist, not wet, environment. The soil's pH range should be non-acidic, anywhere between 5.5 and 8.
The bronze birch borer, a tree borer that specifically feeds on birch trees, can be a problem for the pendula species. While insecticide is a common treatment, a local nursery should be contacted prior to determine what the tree would require in the particular climate.
The Betula pendula is also known as the European white birch, the weeping birch, the European weeping birch, or simply the white birch.