Birch (Betula; Ukrainian: bereza). A genus of trees and some shrubs, distinguished by its white or silver bark. It is not discriminating about soil or climate and grows everywhere, in copses and forests. Two main forms are found in Ukraine: the European white birch (Betula verrucosa), which reaches a height of 25–28 m and grows separately or mixed with other species; and the pilose or swamp birch (Betula pubescens), which reaches 20 m and grows in wet, swampy areas. Both species are very common in Polisia, the northern forest-steppe belt, and the lower ranges of the Carpathian Mountains. The wood of the white birch is elastic and makes good firewood, furniture, and wooden objects. The twigs are used for brooms, and the bark is used in tanning and making birch oil and tar. Birch charcoal is made into black powder and filters for the paint industry. Birch sap is consumed as a beverage in the spring, and tea made of birch leaves, buds, and sap is used in folk medicine as a cure for stomach ailments and rheumatism. The white birch is also grown in protective belts against the wind, along highways for decoration, and on slopes to prevent erosion. Some forms of the birch, such as the weeping birch, are valued as decorative trees. In the south the Dnipro birch (Betula borysthenica) is endemic to the sandy soils of the lower Dnipro River and Boh River. The low birch (Betula humilis) reaches a height of 2 m and grows in the swamps of Polisia, the Opilia Upland, and on the high slopes of the Carpathian Mountains.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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