The Tuesday tree! Upland birches
We are up on the hill again this week in the new series of Tuesday trees. Close to that extraordinary old rowan which I stopped to admire last week, there are a couple of almost equally ancient looking birches.
There is so much that I love about the birch: its feminine grace, its tenacity in harsh growing conditions, its pale green and golden leaves, its aura of a wisdom beyond the grasp of most of us. Most of all, perhaps, I love the environment which birches create around themselves, particularly in wild places.
The trees pictured here are growing (like the rowan) beside the mossy remains of a wall, reminding us that few places even in the Highlands are truly ‘wild’. This is land, however, that is too high and thin for cultivation. Sheep are put to pasture here, deer populate it and pheasant and partridge are reared: otherwise the trees have the place almost to themselves.
The deep-rooted birch creates a nutrient-rich shade welcoming to ferns, moss and wild flowers. You’ll often find primroses and wood anemones under it in the spring, wild blaeberries (blueberries) for picking in the late summer, and bracket fungi on its bark in autumn. It gathers around itself an entire micro-climate of beauty. Fairyland is an insipid word for this botany and deep natural ‘magic’, but I can’t think of a better one to describe what I see and sense when in the presence of ancient upland birches like these.
Incidentally, if you are interested in reading about the native trees of Scotland in greater depth, the website Trees for Life has detailed and fascinating summaries on each species, covering both practicalities and folklore.
You might enjoy the winter woods in Birches by a frozen loch.