Scotland’s national tree – birch?

The Scottish Government is considering whether Scotland should have its own national tree, and if so, what species should be chosen.

The iconic Scots pine is an obvious choice for this accolade but there are other candidates. We’ve invited advocates for six species to give the case for their tree.

In the third of our series of guest blogs writer Gerry Loose, Poet in Residence at Dawyck Botanic Gardens and author of Printed on Water, New and Selected Poems, explains why the silver birch should be Scotland’s National Tree.

“The natural choice for Scotland’s national tree is obvious! More than 300 other species will support me in this claim. The intrinsic beauty, elegance and grace of the birch tree is unsurpassed.

It’s easy to recognise – every child can recognise it silvery trunk.

It’s a great pioneer, moving onto fire-damaged land and bings in order that others can follow; welcoming like all Scots.

The birch tree is a symbol of renewal, stability, and adaptability; surely characteristics that are also true of the Scottish people.

Image: M.Davies

Once, we are told, everything in the highlands was made from it; “they build their houses, make their beds, chairs, tables, dishes, and spoons; construct their mills, make their carts, ploughs, harrows, gates and fences and even manufacture ropes of it . . . The branches are employed as fuel in the distillation of whisky; the spray is used for smoking hams and herrings . . . the bark is used for tanning leather, and sometimes instead of candles. The spray is used for thatching homes  . . . and makes a good bed”. It could be so again.

birch flowerNot restricted to the highlands, it grows abundantly and is loved from the Rhinns of Galloway to Thurso, from Wick to Gretna.

Surely it has already assumed its rightful place as the National Tree of Scotland: no other tree is so welcoming, so useful, so graceful and so well-known.”

How do you feel about birch as Scotland’s national tree? You can have your say in the public consultation until 3rd December, and please do leave a comment below.

We’ll be posting more guest blogs featuring other candidates every Friday for the next few weeks…

Rory Syme, PR and Communications Officer Woodland Trust Scotland


About Kaye Brennan

Trying vegan, staying warm. Occasional bursts of words.
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7 Responses to Scotland’s national tree – birch?

  1. A says:

    It depends if you are thinking which tree is ‘native’ to Scotland or which tree represents Scotland. The concept of a native tree is bound to be flawed as all the vegetation in Scotland is surely shared across the British Isles and even into Europe. So we are looking at which tree represents the Scottish character or spirit. The Scots pine has grandeur and the birch has tenacity – really hard choice, and then there is the Rowan…

  2. Pingback: Birch in a breeze | Fika After Fifty Digital Photography and Art

  3. Birch would be a fine choice. As Dave says above the Birch is indeed ‘the great coloniser’ and personally I find it a more characteristic tree than the Pine.

  4. Penny James says:

    The discussion would have more credence if whoever put this article together knew their birch from their beech! See main photo which appears to be beech not birch

  5. Jan Miller says:

    the silver birch is invasive all over Wales as well, there is nothing especially Scottish about it. the only choice for Scotland has to be the Scot’s Pine as it is the only really native pine for Britain and it has the windswept grandeur to match the Scottish mountains, so can we stop this silly discussion?

  6. The Silver Birch is an obvious choice. Walk around the Highlands and you’ll see that next to the Pine the Birch is the great coloniser.

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