The birch (Betula) family embraces a large group of sub-species - but all share a common feature; they like cold and damp places and this explains why they were one of the first trees to colonise the landscape after the retreat of the ice sheets. The Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis) of our Tree Trail is native to Nepal and the western Himalayas and is similar to our own native ‘Silver Birch’ (Betula pendula) in that it has the familiar silver-white bark (often peeling), although not all birch varieties share that characteristic. ‘Downy birch’ (Betula pubescens) is also very common in Northern Britain and is also found throughout much of Europe and in northern Asia. It is one of the very few native trees in Iceland.
Specific mutations in the genetic make-up of the tree have made the birch exceptionally good at adapting to different environments ; for instance a tree in Finland may not survive if you plant it in Siberia because of the trees genetic ability to fine-tune local adaptations — specific genetic mutations — that help them survive where they are found; whether it be triggered by the cold, moisture or light.
Sadly, with global climatic changes the Betula family is now on the threatened species list as the habitats to which the tree is suited decline.
‘The treeline is out of control’: How the climate crisis is turning the Arctic green
All the trees (and their positioning) on this tree trail have been discussed with arboreal specialists