" I pass forth into light – I find myself Beneath a weeping birch (most beautiful Of forest trees, the Lady of the Woods). ~ The Picture or the Lover’s Resolution’, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Arbor Day is celebrated worldwide on various dates. In the Northern hemisphere, many Arbor Days are designated in the April/May timeframe and are celebrated by the planting of trees. One of the first trees to come into leaf, birch trees are long associated with the emergency of spring and fertility. The fires of the celebrations of Beltane, the second, summer half of the Celtic year were ritually made of birch and oak, and a birch tree was often used as a, sometimes living maypole. According to Scottish Highland folklore, a barren cow herded with a birch stick would become fertile, or a pregnant cow bear a healthy calf. The Gaelic word for birch (Beithe) is widespread in Highland place names such as Glen an Beithe in Argyll, Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe in Inverness-shire and Beith in Sutherland. Birch sap can be tapped as it rises in spring and fermented to make birch tree wine, a spirit still produced in the Highlands.
The Spanish village of Mondoñedo held the first documented arbor plantation festival in the world organized by its mayor in 1594. The place remains as Alameda de los Remedios and it is still planted with lime and horse-chestnut trees.
Today, many countries celebrate arbor day, usually in the spring. The customary observance is to plant a tree. On the first Arbor Day in the United States, April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted.
By designer, Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan evokes the colours and setting of the magical white birch.
Asymmetrical lines represent the tapering trunk of the tree and the expanding crown. The colors used represent the bark of the tree, the colour on the underside of the bark, the earth below, the new spring leaves, the mature leaves, the dark shadows and blue sky.
Birch flowers are pollinated by the wind, and hundreds of seeds are produced by each catkin. These rely on the wind once more for their dispersal. A large birch tree may produce up to a million seeds each year, though only a small fraction of these will germinate.
Only three species of birch grow in Britain - the Dwarf Birch, the Downy Birch and the Silver Birch. The Dwarf Birch is restricted largely to the Scottish moorlands. The Downy Birch (Haarbirke) is far more widespread and prefers the cold, wet acid soils of the uplands. The Silver Birch (Gemeine Birke) prefers the drier soils and is also widespread.
To learn more about the Scottish folklore and rituals of the White Birch, including a recipe for birch wine, click the picture of the tree.