Downy Birch Foliage
Downy Birch Foliage

Downy Birch (Betula pubescens, syn. Betula alba)

Lady Downy Birch does not only make fine forests in the North, but equally generously contributes to creating beautiful gardens in the South. Now, when we say South, we do not mean completely South, but a South convenient for the manifestation of the lady’s generosity. Because all have a limit – even the generosity of the Downy Birch.

The following post describes in a very concise way the many gardening virtues of this (in moderation) generous lady.

Downy Birch Geographic Range

Downy Birch (Betula pubescens, syn. Betula alba)

Downy Birch tree in Scotland
Downy Birch tree in Scotland
Catkins and Leaves of Downy Birch
Catkins and Leaves of Downy Birch
Old-age Downy Birch tree
Old-age Downy Birch tree

Downy Birch (Betula pubescens) - Brief Description

Scientific name

Betula pubescens Ehrh.

Common name

Downy Birch, White Birch, Moor birch, Hairy birch, European White birch


General characteristics

Type of foliage: Deciduous

Form: Single trunk, crown shape ovoid,  

Texture: Medium

Height: 15-20 m (40-65 ft)

Diameter: 10-15 m (33-40 ft)

Growth rate: Moderate

Flowering period: April

Fruiting period: Summer


Shape and colours

Bark: Grey-white

Leaves shape: Ovoid

Foliage colour: Dark green

Foliage colour in autumn: Yellow

Flowers shape: Catkins

Flowers colour: Yellow-brown

Fruit: Small, pendulous, cylindrical aggregate, winged achene



Soil type: Loess, sabulous clay, peaty, sand loamy soil

Exposure: Sun

Soil pH: 5.6 – 7.8

Watering: Medium

Hardiness: – 54 °C (-65 °F – USDA Hardiness zone 1a)



Specimen, alignment, mixed hedges, avenues, squares, parks, central reservation, large gardens, cemeteries, country side, ecological zones

Downy Birch (Betula pubescens, syn. Betula alba)

Young Downy Birch Tree
Young Downy Birch Tree
Downy Birch forest
Downy Birch forest

Downy Birch (Betula pubescens) - General Notes

  1. The name ‘pubescens’ of the species which means hairy in Latin, is due to the characteristic smooth fine down with which its shoots are covered.
  2. Although Downy Birch is a predominantly psychophilic species, areas with frequent northeast winter winds determine the northern limits of its planting. This, of course, does not apply to the Southern areas, but here, on the contrary, the high summer temperatures and drought are the two factors that determine the possibility of planting southwards.
  3. Roots are particularly susceptible to death due to high soil temperatures.
  4. It is a monoicous plant with male and female inflorescences developing as unisexual catkins. The pollination of female flower is carried out with the help of wind (cross-pollination type). Pollen grains can be transported over a distance of 2,000 km or more).
  5. Flowers appear in catkins inflorescence. Male inflorescences are grown since summer and remain visible in the winter, while female catkins grow after the end of the winter with the appearance of leaves. The male catkins are longer, hanging, and clustered, than the female ones which are shorter and more erect. The produced seeds mature from July to August.
  6. Downy Birch can be planted in locations that are temporarily flooded as well as in peat soils
  7. It can safely be planted more than 6 m away from buildings and walls.
  8. Downy Birch is recommended not to be strictly pruned, because after heavy pruning it comes back with difficulty.
  9. Downy Birch loves traditional Finnish music. The ‘Värttinä’ band repels this love, giving her the traditional Finnish song ‘Sorja poika’.


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