0
   

Birch: Full of Grace, Versatility, and Regeneration. 62nd

 
 
sumac
 
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:32 pm
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/1a/Birchtree.jpg/200px-Birchtree.jpg

Sometimes this is the best way to view a majestic tree - the silver birch here.

More comfortable in northern regions than its cousins of the rainforest, and yet with an intimate relationship with fungi, this wondrous life form has been an integral part of humankind's relation to nature for a long, long time.

Quote:
Mythology and Folklore of the Birch


When the huge glaciers of the last ice age receded, birch trees would have been one of the first to re-colonise the rocky, ice-scoured landscape. Hence, in botanical terms the birch is referred to as a pioneer species. Similarly in early Celtic mythology, the birch came to symbolise renewal and purification. Beithe, the Celtic birch, is the first tree of the Ogham, the Celtic tree alphabet. It was celebrated during the festival of Samhain (what is now Halloween in Britain), the start of the Celtic year, when purification was also important. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year. Later this would evolve into the 'beating the bounds' ceremonies in local parishes. Gardeners still use the birch besom, or broom, to 'purify' their gardens. Besoms were also of course the archetypal witches' broomsticks, used in their shamanic flights, perhaps after the use of extracts of the fly agaric mushrooms commonly found in birchwoods.

Interestingly, the birch also has strong fertility connections with the celebrations of Beltane, the second, summer, half of the Celtic year (nowadays celebrated as May Day). Beltane fires in Scotland were ritually made of birch and oak, and a birch tree was often used as a, sometimes living, maypole. As birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf it would be an obvious choice as representation of the emergence of spring. Deities associated with birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses, such as the northern European Frigga and Freya. Eostre (from whom we derive the word Easter), the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring was celebrated around and through the birch tree between the spring equinox and Beltane. According to the medieval herbalist Culpepper, the birch is ruled over by Venus - both the planet and the goddess. 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 word birch is thought to have derived from the Sanskrit word bhurga meaning a 'tree whose bark is used to write upon'. When the poet S.T. Coleridge called it the 'Lady of the Woods', he was possibly drawing on an existing folk term for the tree. Birch figures in many anglicised place names, such as Birkenhead, Birkhall and Berkhamstead, and appears most commonly in northern England and Scotland. Beithe (pronounced 'bey'), the Gaelic word for birch, is widespread in Highland place names such as Glen an Beithe in Argyll, Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe in Inverness-shire and Beith in Sutherland. The adjective 'silver' connected with birch seems to be a relatively recent invention, apparently making its first appearance in a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.


The uses of birch are many and varied. The wood is tough, heavy and straightgrained, making it suitable for handles and toys and good for turning. It was used to make hardwearing bobbins, spools and reels for the Lancashire cotton industry. Traditionally, babies' cradles were made of birch wood, drawing on the earlier symbolism of new beginnings. In 1842, J.C. Loudon, in his Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs wrote that, "The Highlanders of Scotland make everything of it;" and proceeded to list all manner of household and agricultural implements as well as its use as a general building material. Though the wood lends itself well enough to many of these uses, the availability of the wood in the Highlands must also have played a part in its use. Loudon furthermore mentions that " … the branches are employed as fuel in the distillation of whiskey, the spray is used for smoking hams and herrings, for which last purpose it is preferred to every other kind of wood. The bark is used for tanning leather, and sometimes, when dried and twisted into a rope, instead of candles. The spray is used for thatching houses; and, dried in summer, with the leaves on, makes a good bed when heath is scarce." The sap can be tapped as it rises in spring and fermented to make birch wine, a process still practiced in the Highlands today. Of old, the Druids made the sap into a cordial to celebrate the spring equinox.

Folklore and herbalism credit different parts of the birch with a variety of medicinal properties. The leaves are diuretic and antiseptic, and an effective remedy for cystitis and other urinary tract infections. They were also used to dissolve kidney stones and relieve rheumatism and gout. The sap (as wine or cordial) similarly prevents kidney and bladder stones, treats rheumatism, and can be used to treat skin complaints. The bark is said to ease muscle pain if applied externally.


From Trees for Life: Restoring the Caledonian Forest

We have been daily taking a few minutes to click FREE to save a Rain Forest tree. So far, we have saved over 44 Acres of rain forest and contributed to many other very worthwhile causes. All free.

We are currently the Number One team in the world among thousands of teams and over a million people participating.

Please join us and help preserve rain forest! To join, go to the Race for the Rain Forest at Care2.com. Just click on a button and somewhere in the world, you'll save a lot of square feet of rain forest, prairie, or wetlands, -- you choose! Corporate sponsors show their logos when you click, and in return, they pay for the habitat saved.

Just click: http://rainforest.care2.com/welcome?w=856730509

To register for the first time, create your own Distinct Log-in name
and Password. Then each time you visit the site to click you simply
Log-in and click on the Rainforest button. It's that simple. The
site is FREE. If you have a question, we have plenty of answers. FREE.

After clicking, feel free to post on this thread. We have the most
wonderful and helpful group of people clicking here. Any time you can't
click, we can arrange for a substitute to click for you.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 11,519 • Replies: 248
No top replies

 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:39 pm
"Beneath you birch with silver bark
And boughs so pendulous and fair,
The brook falls scattered down the rock:
and all is mossy there."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:41 pm
From http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/bircom43.html:

---History---The name is a very ancient one, probably derived from the Sanscrit bhurga, 'a tree whose bark is used for writing upon.' From its uses in boat-building and roofing it is also connected with the A.S. beorgan, 'to protect or shelter.'
Coleridge speaks of it as the 'Lady of the Woods.' It is remarkable for its lightness, grace, and elegance, and after rain it has a fragrant odour.

The young branches are of a rich red brown or orange brown, and the trunks usually white, especially in the second species of B. alba, B. verrucosa. B. pubescens is darker, and has downy instead of warted twigs.

The wood is soft and not very durable, but being cheap, and the tree being able to thrive in any situation and soil, growing all over Europe, is used for many humble purposes, such as bobbins for thread mills, herring-barrel staves, broom handles, and various fancy articles. In country districts the Birch has very many uses, the lighter twigs being employed for thatching and wattles. The twigs are also used in broom making and in the manufacture of cloth. The tree has also been one of the sources from which asphyxiating gases have been manufactured, and its charcoal is much used for gunpowder.

The white epidermis of the bark is separable into thin layers, which may be employed as a substitute for oiled paper and applied to various economical uses. It yields oil of Birch Tar, and the peculiar, well-known odour of russia leather is due to the use of this oil in the process of dressing. It likewise imparts durability to leather, and it isowing to its presence that books bound in russia leather are not liable to become mouldy. The production of Birch Tar oil is a Russian industry of considerable importance. It is also distilled in Holland and Germany, but these oils are appreciably different from the Russian oil. It has the property of keeping away insects and preventing gnatbites when smeared on the hands. It is likewise employed in photography.

When the stem of the tree is wounded, a saccharine juice flows out which is susceptible, with yeast, of vinous fermentation. A beer, wine, spirit and vinegar are prepared from it in some parts of Europe. Birch Wine, concocted from this thin, sugary sap of the tree, collected from incisions made in the trees in March, honey, cloves and lemon peel being added and then the whole fermented with yeast, makes a very pleasant cordial, formerly much appreciated. From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree, and a moderate tapping does no harm.

[Top]

---Constituents---Birch bark only contains about 3 per cent. of tannic acid, but is extensively used for tanning, wherever there are large birch forests, throughout Northern Europe. As it gives a pale colour to the skin, it is used for the preliminary and the final stages of tanning. It contains betulin and betuls camphor.

The leaves contain betulorentic acid.

By destructive distillation, the white epidermis of the bark yields an empyreumatic oil, known variously in commerce as oil of Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick, bituminous, brownish-black liquid, with a pungent, balsamic odour. It contains a high percentage of methylsalicylate, and also creosol and guaiacol. The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum) is sometimes substituted for oil of Cade.

Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil. It is not completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid, nor in aniline, but Turpentine oil dissolves it completely.

---Medicinal Action and Uses---Various parts of the tree have been applied to medicinal uses. The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties, which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative. The leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction. A decoction of them is good for bathing skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.

The oil is astringent, and is mainly employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some Internal maladies.

The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used in intermittent fevers.

The vernal sap is diuretic.

Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:43 pm
The enemies (other than humans):

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2018.html
bronze birch borer

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2035.html
birch leafminer
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:44 pm
Beautiful.

Thanks for the lovely new spot by the silver birch, sumac.

Did anyone ever learn to canoe without learning this song?

Land Of The Silver Birch

My paddle's keen and bright, flashing with silver,
Follow the wild goose flight, dip, dip and swing;
Dip, dip and swing her back, flashing with silver,
Swift as the wild goose flies, dip, dip and swing.

Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver,
Where still the mighty moose wanders at will;
Blue lake and rocky shore,
I will return once more.

High on a rocky ledge I'll build my wigwam,
Close by the water's edge, silent and still;
Blue lake and rocky shore,
I will return once more.

My heart grows sick for thee here in the lowlands
My heart cries out for thee, hills of the north;
Blue lake and rocky shore,
I will return once more.

Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver,
Where still the mighty moose wanders at will;
Blue lake and rocky shore,
I will return once more.

crossing fingers that the midi link will work ... click
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:48 pm
https://www.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/a2/Birchbark.jpg/180px-Birchbark.jpg
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:53 pm
Well, I don't know why, but those photo links aren't working. So go to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch

scroll through, and especially look at the images of birch timber, silver birch park, characteristic white bark of birch, and silver birch trunk (for the very first photo at the beginning here).
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 07:58 pm
Great Americans: Birches (The WInter View)

A must view, not only for great photos, but for an excellent discussion of the distinguishing characteristics and differences of barks, catkins, leaves, etc.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 08:00 pm
Believe that the following probably came from the "Great Americans" citation above.

"Birch is the name of any tree of the genus Betula, in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae. These are generally small to medium-size trees or shrubs, mostly of northern temperate climates. The simple leaves may be toothed or lobed. The fruit is a small samara, although the wings may be obscure in some species. They differ from the alders (Alnus, the other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are not woody and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds, unlike the woody cone-like female alder catkins.

Birch is used as a food plant by a large number of Lepidoptera species including Emperor Moth, Oak Hook-tip, Large Emerald, Common Emerald, Common Marbled Carpet, November Moth, Autumnal Moth, Brimstone Moth, Purple Thorn, Scalloped Hazel, Feathered Thorn, Dotted Border, Mottled Umber, Willow Beauty, Mottled Beauty, The Engrailed, Common White Wave, Light Emerald, Lime Hawk-moth, Buff-tip, Coxcomb Prominent, Yellow-tail, Buff Ermine and Double Square-spot.

Birches are versatile trees, used for many purposes. The sap, bark, leaves, wood, twigs, and roots are used for food, construction materials, medicinal treatments, lubricants, and other practical applications.

Extracts of birch are used for flavoring or leather oil, and in cosmetics such as soap or shampoo. In the past, commercial oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate) was made from the Sweet Birch (Betula lenta). Birch tar, extracted from birch bark, was used as a lubricant and for medicinal purposes.

Birch leaves are used to make a diuretic tea and to make extracts for dyes and cosmetics. Birch sap is drunk as a tonic or rendered into birch syrup, vinegar, beer, soft drinks, and other foods.

Many of the First Nations of North America prized the birch for its bark, which due to its light weight, flexibility, and the ease with which it could be stripped from trees, was often used for the construction of strong, waterproof but lightweight canoes. The bark is high in betulin and betulinic acid, phytochemicals which have potential as pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals which show promise as industrial lubricants.

Birches also have spiritual importance in several religions, both modern and historical."
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 08:02 pm
"birching" - the practice of corporal punishment using a rod made out of birch.

Ouch. Disrespectful use of birch.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 08:03 pm
I'll go look for images but seem to be pretty inept in this area.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 08:08 pm
Birch Images
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 08:09 pm
I'm really pissing myself off here. Perfectly beautiful photo of silver birch glen. I give up.
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 08:13 pm
You will have to go see for yourself.

http://images.google.com/images?q=birch&hl=en&btnG=Search+Images
0 Replies
 
danon5
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 09:33 pm
sumac,
Thanks for the new thread - birch. Such a useful tree.
0 Replies
 
Stradee
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 11:11 pm
sumac, beautiful new thread!

http://www.novareinna.com/constellation/birch.jpg
0 Replies
 
Stradee
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 11:26 pm
The Birch Tree

Under my window
Tucked in the snow
White birch retired
Clad in silver glow.

On the fluffy branches
Snowy-trim with silver-tinge
Melted around catkins
Forming white fringe.

Like golden fires
Snow-flakes blazed
While birch stood still
Asleep, or amazed.

Meanwhile, lazily
Strolling around,
Dawn threw more "silver"
On the twigs (and ground).

Translated from original by K.M.W.Klara
0 Replies
 
Stradee
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Jul, 2005 11:40 pm
Silver Birch Trees in fog - Glen Affric, Scotland

http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/images/misty_trees_220.jpg
0 Replies
 
danon5
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jul, 2005 08:38 am
That's a really nice photo, Stradee.

Morning all,

Clicked.......................
0 Replies
 
sumac
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Jul, 2005 08:46 am
Thanks for the reminder, Stradee. Completely forgot it. AND saw the problem with the image URL and corrected it while there. Now, if I could only just figure out what else I am doing wrong. Sigh.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

 
  1. Forums
  2. » Birch: Full of Grace, Versatility, and Regeneration. 62nd
Copyright © 2024 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 07/19/2024 at 08:44:38