Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Herb Trees: The Silver Birch

A second herb tree described by Amy Jeanroy, herb garden guide
at about.com, is the silver birch, betula pendula.
The silver birch is a beautiful tree
with icy white trunks:


and serrated leaves:

I had never thought of this tree as an herb tree, 
but Jeanroy says its sap is used for medicinal wine
and the leaves are used to make a tea
 that alleviates some of the symptoms of gout.
And Jeanroy cites Margaret Grieve, author of "A Modern Herbal,"
who reports the tea was also once used for relief from kidney stones.
"A Modern Herbal" also describes the inner bark as a treatment of fever.
Neither remedy is of use today as far as I know.

Jeanroy says that the silver birch gives off a sweet perfume,
especially after a rain. 
We don't have silver birch trees in the Shire,
but I'm wondering if river birches, which we have in profusion here,
give the same effect. I have noticed a similar faint fragrance after a rain
and been unable to pinpoint its source.


The leaves of the silver birch turn a soft gold in the autumn 
which really sets off the whiteness of the bark.
But another reason to like birch trees
 is the way the leaves rattle gently in the breeze.
Good reasons to have one around even if it's not used as an herb tree.

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