This wonderfully sculpted Birch beside the River Wharfe seemed to be marking a village boundary, which felt right, given that Birches have long been associated with protection and boundary marking. Compared with other tree species, Birches are not very long lived. Silver Birches in the U.K. typically live for 50-90 years, with some individuals going on to be 150 years old, though apparently they can live longer further north. We tend to think of them in their characteristic role as young pioneers, fixing nitrogen in unwelcoming soil so that other species can become established. They’ve been called the ‘Mother Tree’ because of this ability to open up new habitat, and ‘the Lady of the Woods’ because of their slender form. The link between birch trees and shamanism is well known, as is their symbiotic mycorrhrizal relationship with fly agaric (amanita muscaria) and other fungi. I’ve always been drawn to the play of light in birch woods, but nowadays find a particular beauty in the colours and textures of older birch trees.
Brian Taylor 7/6/14.