Old Town Hall River Birch

The River Birch, also known as Red Birch, Black Birch or Water Birch, is a species of Birch native to the United States that naturally develops multiple trunks. In nature, it is generally found in flood plains and swamps, but it also does well in drier soil. Its bark is very distinctive not only for its various tones of cream and salmon colors, but also for its extreme peeling, which allows the tree to grow faster by synthesizing more food from carbon dioxide.

Native Americans used the boiled sap of this vigorous tree as a sweetener just like the Sugar Maple syrup. They ate the inner bark as survival food.

We no longer commonly eat its sap or bark, and its wood is too crooked to have any value as timber. But it is durable enough to make many items such as toys, eating utensils and artificial limbs. Gardeners value it as a great native option, attractive in every season, as its leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. And environmentalists love it for its capacity to contain erosion on stream banks.

The word bereza, which means Birch in Russian, is an ancient word that conveyed the concept of taking care of someone. The Slavs thought of the Birch as a protector of their people. They believed Birches controlled the spread of fires in forests, and planted them around their villages. In Celtic culture, the Birch symbolizes growth, renewal, stability, new beginnings and adaptability. Even though short-lived, this pioneer species is one of the first to appear in disrupted areas, withstanding harsh conditions.