Soft on the outside. Tough on the inside. With its fuzzy leaf stalks, shoots and twigs, this plucky tree grows further north than any other broadleaf species. Mature trees can reach 30m in height, forming a light, open canopy with elegant, drooping branches that provide the perfect conditions for grasses, mosses, wood anemones, bluebells, wood sorrel and violets to grow.Downy birch provides food and habitat for more than 300 insect species as well as helping moth caterpillars to thrive. Birch trees are particularly associated with specific fungi, including fly agaric, woolly milk cap, birch milk cap, birch brittlegill, birch knight, chanterelle and the birch polypore (razor strop).Woodpeckers and other hole-nesting birds often nest in the trunk, while the seeds are eaten by siskins, greenfinches and redpolls.
In early Celtic mythology, the birch symbolised renewal and purification. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year, and gardeners still use the birch broom, to 'purify' their gardens. It is also used as a symbol of love and fertility.