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Arbor Day

"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)

Beltane is almost upon as as well as Arbor Day! Arbor Day, celebrated across the globe on various dates, most commonly in the northern hemisphere during April and May, a time when nature awakens and communities come together to plant trees. Among the first to unfurl their leaves are the birch trees, heralds of spring and symbols of fertility. These trees have held a special place in the ancient Beltane festivities, marking the start of the second half of the Celtic year. During Beltane, celebratory fires, traditionally fueled by birch and oak, illuminate the night, and birch trees often transform into living maypoles, swirling centers of dance and joy. Scottish Highland folklore tells of the birch's magical properties: barren cows nudged by a birch stick would regain fertility, while those already pregnant were believed to be blessed to deliver healthy calves under its influence. The Gaelic word for birch, "Beithe," echoes through the landscape, christening places like Glen an Beithe in Argyll, Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe in Inverness-shire, and Beith in Sutherland with its life-giving essence. And in a tradition that continues to this day, Highlanders would craft birch tree wine during the brief period when the sap rises, captures the essence of spring by tapping the birch trees. 💚 💛 🤍 🌳 🤍 💛 💚

By designer, Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan evokes the colours and setting of the magical white birch. 

The Spanish village of Mondoñedo held the first documented arbor plantation festival in the world organized by its mayor in 1594. The place is known today as Alameda de los Remedios and remains 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.

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. And 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 beautiful silver birches.

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