Betula pendula, B. pubescens
Description: Deciduous trees that often hybridise. Silver birch (Betula pendula) has white papery bark with black markings, and bosses at the base of the trunk. Downy birch (B. pubescens) has greyer bark and no bosses on the trunk.
Habitat: Woods, heaths, moors and gardens. Downy birch prefers wetter places.
Distribution: Both species are common and widespread throughout the British Isles. They are native to northern temperate regions of Eurasia.
Birch has a multitude of historical uses but is less familiar for its undoubted medicinal benefits. The sap makes a clear and refreshing drink that can be preserved as a wine, beer or spirit. The leaves produce a pleasant tea and an infused oil. In each form, birch is an excellent tonic and detoxifier, mainly working on the urinary system to remove waste products, as in kidney or bladder stone, gravel, gout and rheumatism. It reduces fluid retention and swellings, and clears up many skin problems.