Downy birch (DB)

Betula pubescens

Native range

Native to all parts of the British Isles.

Provenance choice

British seed sources of good form should be preferred. On equivalent sites it tends to be slower growing and have poorer stem form than silver birch.

Site requirements

A light demanding pioneer species with moderate early height growth which is frost resistant and windfirm. Found on moister soils of very poor to medium nutrient status and it is one of the broadleaved species that can grow on peaty soils. It is also found in mixture with both broadleaves and conifers.

Pests and pathogens

Rust pathogen Melamsporidium betulinum is considered important on birch in several European countries, associated with retarded height growth and increased mortality. Provenance and environmental conditions play a role in infection levels. Fungal pathogens Discula betulina and Anisogramma virgultorum may also be damaging. Betula is also rated as very susceptible to Armillaria root rot (honey fungus).


This species is likely to increase in importance, particularly as a component of spruce dominated forests in western Britain.