Downy birch

Downy Birch

©Pieter Edelman

Downy birch

Scientific name: Betula pubescens
A spindly tree of heathland and moorlands, and damp soils, the Downy birch is well known for its paper-thin, white bark. It is so-called for the hairy stalks from which its leaves grow; the Silver Birch is hairless.

Species information


Height: up to 30m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Downy birch is a small, spindly tree with thin branches and papery bark. It is found on heathland, moorland and mountainsides, as well as on damp soils. In spring, the male catkins (or 'lamb's tails') turn yellow and shed their pollen, which is carried by the wind to the short, green, female catkins that appear on the same tree. In winter, the fertilised catkins that have hung on the tree all summer, will break up into winged seeds, ready to disperse.

How to identify

Birches are easily recognised by their white, papery bark. The Downy birch is a more upright, less 'weeping', tree than the Silver birch. Its leaves are more rounded and grow on hairy stalks, hence the name, 'Downy'.



Did you know?

During the winter, birch seeds are a favourite food for visiting and resident Siskins and Lesser redpolls.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working to restore and protect our heathlands by promoting good management, clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes. This work is vital if these habitats are to survive; you can help by supporting your local Wildlife Trust and becoming a member or volunteer.