Tree of the Day – Birch

30th November 2019

Saturday 23rd November sees the start of National Tree Week (23rd November – 1st December) and is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season.

To celebrate trees we are posting the ‘Tree of the Day’ with details of the trees you are likely to see if you are out and about in Greater Manchester.

The Birch

Whenever land is cleared or burnt over in the UK, as well as in most other northern countries, one of the first trees to appear in the newly cleared area is usually a birch. Birches – there are over sixty species worldwide – are therefore referred to as ‘pioneer’ species. In the North of England over several decades a wood initially consisting of birch trees will be taken over by other types of tree such as the oak or ash. These can grow in the shade cast by birch trees, whereas the birch itself needs full sunlight. The UK has two native birches: the downy birch, which has soft hairs on its leaves and leaf stalks, and the silver birch, which has smooth leaves and tiny warts on the leaf stalks. The picture shows an unusually old specimen of silver birch, growing, appropriately, in Birchfields Park in Rusholme. The downy birch is one of the few trees native to Iceland and Greenland and grows further north than any other non-coniferous tree. Both species provide habitats for many varieties of insects (and therefore insect-eating birds), and fungi such as the famous red-and-white fly agaric grow along their root systems. They also have sugary sap that can be used as a substitute for maple syrup or even fermented to make beer!

Trees play an incredible role in combating climate chaos by removing planet-wrecking emissions from the air around us. Despite their importance, just 13% of the UK’s total land area has tree cover (compared to an EU average of 35%).

Friends of the Earth has launched a #MoreTreesPlease campaign to double tree cover in the UK. We believe one of the best solutions to protect our environment and achieve net zero emissions (removing as many emissions as we produce) is to double UK forest by 2045, but government targets currently fall well short.

See Friends of the Earth’s briefing: ‘What’s so good about trees?

Manchester Friends of the Earth November newsletter is all about trees!

Wherever you live, trees have a wide range of benefits, which you can learn more about inside this newsletter. In our city centres, trees help absorb air pollutants and cool the air in heatwaves. In our suburbs, trees enhance the value of open spaces for exercise and recreation, improving our physical and mental health. In our countryside, trees retain moisture in the soil and thus reduce the risk of grass fires in droughts and floods after heavy rain. These are all important reasons for planting more trees here in Greater Manchester.

Manchester FoE Newsletter 2019-11