A birch fruit by any other name… Tree following, July.


I’m just catching up, taking a break from chasing Next Door’s Cat around the garden with a string of shallots (see previous post). Why I’m taking a break from this activity I do not know, given that he gave me a frog this morning. Correction: most of a frog. Ergh. On to something more edifying: my downy birch.

The leaves have almost all lost their freshness, though they seem to regain it in the sun,

leaves and sun

and the sun also reveals the soft slight downiness of the newer twigs. But there’s no denying that the crispness, the startling bright green, has changed.


It’s a deeper green and the leaves are much less glossy than they were; in Welsh, July is Gorffennaf, which translates as summer’s end.

My birch is still hanging onto what Collins’ Field Guide tells me are its fruit:


and I decided I’d better investigate them more thoroughly before they all fell off. They’re not ripe yet, but they are definitely heading that way:

downy birch fruitThe scales come off quite easily, and the seed cases inside are getting quite dry. It won’t be long before the ‘cones’ (I suppose I could call them that, though I doubt that it’s technically correct) dry out and release the seeds… Gorffennaf indeed.

So what of the bark, which was still looking orangey-brown and tawny at the start of my tree watching? The newer twigs and the branches are still very orange – burnt orange, really. So is the trunk, from about a metre up. Below that, though, it is definitely beginning to turn more silvery:

birch trunk

A little difficult to see both in this shot, but take it from me: it’s going silvery.

The meadow around the birch is – or should be – at its height. In some ways it still is, but it is far from being physically at its height (usually about as tall as I am, in parts), given that it also doubles as a dog’s playground / dog bed on occasion. There is still a lot of Bird’s Foot Trefoil; the St John’s Wort is flowering and almost all the grasses are shedding seed.

There’s a fair bit of wildlife too; butterflies fluttering by, insects crawling up the grass stems, a couple of crickets shouting at each other. Makes a change from frog-catching felines – though the FCF seems to be nervous in the meadow and waits for me outside it, rather than trailing after me along the mown paths. Wish the same could be said of the dog. However, even the most determined collie pup (and she is) has managed to avoid breaking down all the Hogweed.

hogweed opening

This is coming along nicely, and I do love it. It’s almost triffid-like as it grows, sharing alien qualities with the Angelica gigas which I grew a couple of years ago. Not surprising, really; the coarser members of the carrot family all have this tendency, I think. Again, I should be careful what I wish for: once, I dreamed of more umbellifers. Now, I’ve got them. Only in the garden, in the form of wild carrot, and not in the meadow. Oh well.

Wonder if the leaves will be turning for the next post? There’s been some tweeting about how autumn seems to be early this year; I’m not so sure. But we will see…


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    It’s strange, I have thousands of seeds from my wild silver birch that put itself into my garden, but none from my Jacquemontii, Ermanii or Papyrifera. If they were all allowed to stay, I would be living in a birch forest! Maybe I could do a bonsai birch woodland!
    Your meadow is lovely, so much wildlife with all the insects, they must love it.

    1. kate says:

      I’ve only got seeds on the downy birch, none on the others. Isn’t it odd? And given how many seeds there are, it’s amazing that I’m not covered in downy birches.

      The wildlife has been better. I think the insects prefer the meadow without doggy effects. Grumble.

  2. Chloris says:

    So that’ s what the seed heads look like inside. My birch is often alive with long tailed tits, do you think they eat the seeds or are they looking for insects?’

    1. kate says:

      Could be either I suppose – I’ve not seen any in my tree at all, though that could also be down to the domestic (hah!) wildlife…

  3. wonderful to wander in the wild meadow with this post – agree about the crispy look to trees – the Welsh have it right with Gorffennaf and yet they are the ones with the most rain. Fascinating look inside your fruiting birch – with the animal asides

    1. kate says:

      Last year the meadow looked a whole lot better, honestly it did. We’ve been quite light on rain so far, and it’s been behaving itself by raining at night. Most unnatural for Wales…

  4. I am always a little sad when I notice the birch leaves going that darker, duller green. Fab to see the trunk beginning to silver. Something I am really looking forward to. Pessimistic lot, the Welsh, aren’t they, although if you live near the mountains I guess summer might nearly be over! I hear rumours of rain for today. I’ll believe it when I see it, bet it isn’t enough to make an impact on the empty water butts.

    1. kate says:

      I think we’re actually having quite a good summer (though it’s grey today, that’s due to mist off the sea – a haar / sea fret, good explanation here, I never knew how it formed. But however it formed, I wish it would go away. you probably get these. In fact, you’ve probably got this one too…

      1. Yep, I can confirm the presence of a sea fret – the foghorn is sounding on North Stack too. But the rain that is supposed to be settling in my new plants isn’t. Just the occasional spotting. Hrumph.

  5. interesting about the seeds Kate, if it stops raining I must take a closer look at mine, nice to see the trunk changing, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Hope your rain has stopped and you’re ready for the promised (?) heatwave. That’s if it gets anywhere other than the South East…

  6. wellywoman says:

    I love the vibrancy of trees in spring but they fade into the background by summer. It’s a bit sad in a way especially now we’ve passed the solstice. I don’t really want to think about the approach of autumn.

    1. kate says:

      I quite enjoy autumn (well, until the Great Apple Glut kicks in), but it does feel a bit like a slide down… hopefully towards a proper winter this year, which will kill off some bugs. Grumble…

  7. Lucy Corrander says:

    Glad you opened out the seeds. Crickets – I don’t think we have anywhere near as many as usual this year. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve not been out and around at the right time of day / evening.

    1. kate says:

      Loads of crickets here. I almost trod on one a couple of days ago… but then we are having a summer this year. Phew.

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