Scientific name: Betula pendula
Origin: Native to the UK
Key identifying traits: A distinct silvery-white bark with black markings, small triangular leaves with toothed edges. Light green leaves changing to bright yellow in autumn.
In the wood: May be found in broadleaf woodland within the canopy layer. Mature trees can grow up to 30m tall. A pioneer species, a fast growing tree that does well in open areas or areas that have recently been swept by fire.
Uses: It has long thin branches that were traditionally used to make besom brooms that is the traditional broom that witches (and now Harry Potter) fly around on. When dry, birch twigs are good kindling for starting fires. The dry bark can also be used as a tinder. In spring, the sap can be 'tapped' and drunk as it is or turned into syrup in the same way as with maple. The oils in the bark have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In countries where temperatures reach way below zero, the bark grows thicker than in the UK and can be used to make items such as canoes, storage pots and decorative items.