The beautiful birch tree is widespread both in the Russian Federation and in various parts of the northern hemisphere. And on the sphagnum bogs in the taiga and in the tundra mountains one can see the unusual dwarf birch (Betula nana). It is quite popular among landscapers and is also famous for its medicinal properties. This variety has few external similarities with the usual birch. Because of this, only an expert is able to understand which genus the dwarf birch belongs to.
Peculiarities of the dwarf birch
The dwarf (polar) birch features strong branching. Its branched crown can reach up to 150cm in diameter. It is decorated with small rounded leaves whose color changes smoothly from pale green in the lower part of the tree to deep green in the upper part. The leaves have short petioles.
The dwarf birch varieties differ markedly from each other in appearance.
But all of them do not reach more than 100 cm in height. And there are varieties that can only be discerned standing next to them: they are green caps consisting of leaves and branches that are only slightly elevated above the surface of the ground. It is a very slow growing tree. It propagates by means of small, elongated round earrings. When the earrings fully mature, they themselves disintegrate into scales and seeds, which are dispersed by the wind.
This birch blossoms before its leaves open. The lifespan of the inconspicuous flowers is very short. They produce small (about 0.2 cm in diameter) fruits that look like nuts. The branches of this low-growing plant run down the surface of the soil, intertwining and curving spectacularly.
It is found in northern Alaska, Canada and Russia. The root system of the polar birch has a special structure that allows it to grow successfully among swamps and mountain rocks. This dwarf plant is very often used in landscape design. And it attracts attention by its compactness and spectacular round-shaped foliage. And also this culture is undemanding in care.
Sorts of dwarf birch
Dwarf birch despite its compact size is not at all a simple plant as it might seem at first sight. In total, species of such a plant are divided into 2 groups:
- Nana. It possesses shoots that do not have a sticky patina, but have down. The almost round leaf plates can reach 20 to 25 mm in cross-section. This species is most commonly found in Greenland, on the peaks of the Alps, and in the northwestern part of Asian countries.
- Exilis. The pubescence-deprived shoots have a sticky surface due to the secretion secreted. The small leaflets are about 12 mm long. At the same time, their width is only a little more than their length. Representatives of this group are found in Alaska, Canada and the Asian part of Russia.
The majority of ornamental varieties of this plant are representatives of the subspecies Exilis. The Polar Birch, which belongs to the Golden variety, is characterized by extremely slow growth. At the age of ten years it is about 0.7 m in diameter and not more than 0.3 m high.
And the mature birch has a maximum height of 0.7 m and a diameter of up to 1.5 m. Due to its unusual shape, the plant looks extremely striking, due to which it is often used to create accents in landscape design:
- Golden Trege. This not-so-large shrub is distinguished by its compactness and lacy foliage of unusual yellow color.
The variety is very popular among landscape designers because it has a very striking appearance and brightly colored foliage. This sprawling, strongly branching shrub has shoots that are only slightly elevated above the soil surface. It is an extremely rare species. Annual growth is only about 10 centimeters. The shrub blooms in May before the leaves open.
Grows well in a little shade and in sunny areas as well. It is not very demanding to the quality of the soil, but grows best in moderate moisture.
- Golden Dream. This strongly branching, rounded shrub is an ornamental deciduous shrub. The maximum width of an adult plant is about 1.
5 m, and its height is up to 1.2 m. The upper part of the leaf blades is slightly rounded, while the broad base reaches about 25 mm in cross-section. The color of the leaves is unusual: the plate is green in the center, then there is a black border, and its edges are colored yellow. It blooms in late spring before the leaves open.
It prefers dampness and plenty of light, and is undemanding to the soil. It is propagated by seed and cuttings.
Where does the dwarf birch grow
Widespread varieties of dwarf birch are found in sphagnum bogs located in taiga, as well as on mountain tops (at least 500 m above sea level) and in tundra. As mentioned above, the appearance of such plants is strikingly different from the classic birches with tall white trunks with black stripes. Only those who know what a dwarf birch looks like will be able to distinguish it from ordinary shrubs.
In natural conditions, such a plant forms dense thickets.
Ernieks (shrubs) - this is how dwarf birches are called in the Nenets dialect. The fact is that their numerous curved branches intertwine with each other so tightly that they form impassable thickets.
Since in the wild such a shrub has to grow in harsh conditions, it is unpretentious and undemanding to care. In the tundra it can be found in the arctic zone, while in other regions it can be seen on the tops and slopes of mountains.
Potting dwarf birch
Before planting a decorative dwarf birch in your plot, important rules must be considered:
- The best time to plant this crop is in autumn.
- Although the shrub is undemanding to the soil, it grows best in a substrate consisting of garden soil mixed with humus, sand and gravel. Loam can also be added if necessary.
- Prepare a small planting hole and place the rhizome of the shrub in it. Carefully straighten the roots.
- Fill the hole with soil or prepared substrate.
- Water the bush well, but do not allow moisture to become stagnant.
Care for the dwarf birch
For the plant to be most showy and disease-free, it must be cared for properly:
- A sunny site is best for this plant, as is one that is in a little shade.
- In times of prolonged drought, it is recommended that the bush be regularly watered and moistened from a sprayer, especially the first time after planting in the open ground.
- Feed twice during the growing season: Nitrogen fertiliser in the summer and a mineral complex in the winter.
- Roaming the soil surface in the growing bed is not allowed.
- To prevent excessive moisture evaporation and root overheating, it is recommended to cover the soil surface with a layer of mulch.
- The Dwarf Birch is very frost hardy.
- Trimming does not begin until the second year after planting in the open ground in the early spring.
- This plant should be systematically treated for fungus and pests.
Breeding by cuttings and seeds. The seed material must be fully matured while in the earrings, only then is it harvested and immediately sown in the open field. Sowing can also be carried out in deep autumn, but in this case, the soil surface is covered with a layer of sawdust or peat. However, to grow such a birch from seeds is extremely difficult and long, so experienced gardeners recommend using cuttings or ready-made seedlings for planting. In order not to buy low-quality seedlings, it is recommended to buy them in a nursery, not from a private dealer.
It is also necessary to pay attention to the fact that seedlings with an open root system very poorly adapt to a new place and often die. It is recommended to buy a shrub in a container filled with soil. Also suitable and a seedling in a container with a lump of soil. They are planted in the spring time or in deep autumn.
- Preparing the planting hole should be done half a month before planting the seedling.
A mixture of peat, humus, garden soil and sand (1:1:2:1) should be placed in the bottom of the hole.
- Mineral complex should then be added to the soil: Approximately 200 g fertilizer per planting hole.
- Fill the surface of the planting hole with a thick layer of mulch, which can be sawdust, humus or other suitable material.
- The bush is watered after planting.
Diseases and pests
A plant like the dwarf birch has a low resistance to pests.
It is often infested by bladderworms, leaf sawflies, moths and mulberry silkworms. To get rid of them, treatments with suitable insecticides and fungicides are recommended.
Bacterial or fungal diseases often affect the bark. To cure the bush, fungicidal preparations are used. Preventive treatments are also recommended.
Application and value
Dwarf trees prefer to grow in the harsh conditions of the tundra. Here they are very widespread. In this region there are often impassable thickets, consisting of intertwined branches of such plants. Most often such thickets are found in the southern part of the tundra.
In the harsh tundra conditions, in addition to the dwarf birch, lichens, mosses, and miniature willows grow.
All these plants are practically the only food for the animals living here. And the branches of the largest bushes serve as fuel for the local population.
Because the dwarf birch has a very spectacular appearance, they are very popular among landscapers. Such a plant looks most spectacular in autumn, so it is often used for planting in alpinaries, rockeries, and also for creating group plantings. This birch tree looks most effective when planted together with similar species or evergreen low-growing conifers.
Application in landscape design
In landscape design the dwarf birch is used as a decorative deciduous plant. They are used to create short hedges as well as to plant large gardens in Japanese or exotic style.
Besides that this type of plant also looks very good near not very big ponds and is often planted together with creeping willow. The birch will be well suited for planting outdoors or in a pergola. It can even be grown in a pot at home in bonsai style.
And also a dwarf birch is often used to decorate alpinaries and mixborders. They are often planted together with stonecrops and gentians.
Dwarf birch (Bétula nána)