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Downy Birch

Native British Plant

Downy Birch
Betula pubescens

The scientific name of this birch comes from the downy peach fuzz which covers its leaves and young twigs – ‘pubescens’ – from the Latin, ‘to reach puberty, to become covered as with hair’. The Downy Birch is otherwise very like the Silver Birch we know and love, though you may be slightly more likely to find this tree on damp soils than its better-known counterpart. You’ll also see that Downy has more variable bark – brown or grey-white – not as strikingly pale as Silver Birch.

An exceptionally fast-growing plant, you’ll often find Downy Birch popping up on the edge of bogs, and other wet habitats. The delicate leaves and papery, fissured bark make this a charming tree, and, while it can grow to a substantial height, it may have a short lifespan on boggy ground, failing to reach its full potential. Downy Birch can be slightly invasive, but is relatively easy to keep under control as you can pull saplings by hand.

Buy Plants

Buy Downy Birch from these sellers

We do not earn referral fees – the site is sponsored by Life to Land – the nature recovery tool. This lets us stay independent, giving you a bigger choice of sellers.

ℹ️ Many trees are out of stock during Spring and Summer. They are typically shipped and planted ‘bare root’ from November to March. However, some suppliers may sell potted trees.

Habitat Aid

Somerset-based B Corp with marketplace for native plants and trees. Specialises in large orders.





Huge Nottinghamshire-based native plant nursery offering bulk discounts on large orders.




Woodland Trust

Charity shop, selling individual native trees (£££) and packs (£). Packs are subsidised by the charity.




Search eBay for more sellers

Sometimes sellers may not have the plant you’re looking for in stock. eBay can be a useful last resort, with many nurseries selling direct to consumers. However, plants may not be the species advertised as sellers often make mistakes or misrepresent items. Importing plants from other countries risks spreading pests and diseases.

Grow Plants

Grow Downy Birch


What’s The Point?


What do we mean?

We thought that gardening was complicated enough for newbies, without dealing with terms like ‘perennial’, ‘biennial’ and ‘sedge’. So let’s make it clear and simple – why would you want to buy this plant? E.g. some ‘trees’ like Hazel are also good hedging and provide food.


Technical Plant Type


What do we mean?

We know that some of you like more detail, so here it is… 

Annual plants live for one year, then set seed; biennial plants generally grow flowers in the second year, with leafy growth in year one. Perennial plants put down deeper roots and come back every year, provided they aren’t killed off by drought, frost or acts of God/dog. 

Aquatic plants, climbers, ferns, grasses and trees are almost always perennial.


Flower/Fruit Colour


Flowering/Fruiting Period

March, April, May

What do we mean?

Many plants don’t just have colourful flowers, but beautiful fruits, too! Some have tiny flowers but big, bright bunches of berries. We thought it would be sensible to combine these two categories, so you can see which months of the year show the plant at its best.

Plant Height


Soil Type

Loam, Clay, Chalk, Sand

What do we mean?

Different plants like different conditions for their roots, and some species aren’t suited to certain types of soil. It’s best to check this before planting, to avoid costly mistakes. Loam looks like compost, while clay turns slippery and mouldable when wet; chalk soils are pale in colour, found above chalk or limestone rock, and sand is, well, sandy.

Moist and Free-Draining

Soil Moisture

Moist and free-draining, Free-draining

What do we mean?

Roots are sensitive little organs, and some species of plant don’t like sitting around with wet feet, especially if they rely on processes at the roots, like mycorrhizal interactions. Waterlogged soils tend to have water puddling on the surface when it rains; moist soils are generally wet just below ground level and free-draining soils may be quite dry in the height of summer. And no, we don’t like the term ‘moist’ any more than you, but ‘damp’ doesn’t seem much better.

Partial Shade

Sunlight and Shade

Partial Shade, Full Sun

What do we mean?

Different plants have evolved for different levels of sunlight exposure. Just like humans, some species love soaking up the rays all day while others would rather live in a cellar. This is worth considering before you stick a sun-loving plant on a north-facing balcony or pop that delicate fern in the middle of the patio.

Species Status


What do we mean?

The species listed on Buy Native are, of course, native! That means they arrived on our island naturally, without human help, since the last Ice Age. This helped them to develop important relationships with our other native species – invertebrates, birds, mammals, fungi, etc, that make them crucial parts of a healthy ecosystem.

Is It Vigorous

This plant is moderately vigorous and over time may spread across sections of your garden.

What do we mean?

Just like introduced species, some of our native plants are very competitive – let them loose in your garden and they may well take liberties – we’re looking at you, Hedge Bindweed! We want to help you make an informed choice that avoids alienating the neighbours, which is why we also describe some, ah… enthusiastic species. Very enthusiastic species may not be available to purchase due to their unfriendly tendencies.


May be invasive in certain ecosystems like peat bog.


Birch sap is highly prized by foragers!
This plant profile was created by Chris
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