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Dwarf Birch

Betula nana

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Betulaceae (Birch)
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
3 metres tall
Bogs, fens, heathland, moorland, mountains, swamps.

Green, no petals
Greenish-brown erect catkins, up to 1.5cm long. Smaller than the catkins of Downy Birch and Silver Birch. Wind pollinated.
The fruit is a small winged achene (a type of one-seeded, dry fruit). In fruit from July to September.
Small, round, hairless and deeply toothed. They are downy when young. Up to 1.5mm across. The leaves turn yellow, orange or red in autumn.
Other Names:
Arctic Birch, Mountain Birch.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Betula nana, also known as dwarf birch or Arctic birch, is a small tree or shrub native to the Arctic and subarctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is a member of the Betulaceae family and is closely related to other birch species such as Betula pendula (silver birch) and Betula papyrifera (paper birch). Dwarf birch is a hardy plant that is adapted to growing in cold, dry environments and is often found in tundra and other high-elevation habitats. It is characterized by its small, round leaves, papery bark, and small, drooping branches. Dwarf birch is often used in landscaping and as an ornamental plant due to its attractive appearance and ability to thrive in harsh conditions. It is also valued for its wood, which is used for a variety of purposes including fuel and papermaking.


Dwarf Birch (Betula nana) is a deciduous shrub or small tree species belonging to the Betulaceae family. It is also commonly referred to as the Arctic birch, dwarf Arctic birch, or Alpine birch.

Appearance and Characteristics: Dwarf birch is a low-growing plant, reaching a maximum height of 3 meters. The leaves are small, triangular and serrated, with a bright green color on top and pale underneath. The bark is light gray and smooth, sometimes with a few black spots. The shrub is covered in catkins in early spring, followed by tiny winged seeds that are dispersed by wind.

Habitat: Dwarf birch is native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America, where it grows in cold and wet tundra environments, often in large colonies. It is a hardy species and can withstand harsh conditions such as low temperatures, high winds, and poor soils.

Ecological Importance: Dwarf birch is an important component of the tundra ecosystem. It provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals. The shrub also helps to prevent soil erosion by binding the soil with its roots and providing shade to the ground.

Cultural Significance: Dwarf birch has been used by indigenous peoples for thousands of years as a source of food, medicine, and building material. The bark can be used to make baskets, canoes, and shelters, while the leaves and twigs have medicinal properties. In some cultures, dwarf birch is also considered a sacred plant and is used in spiritual rituals.

Dwarf Birch is a valuable species that should be appreciated and protected. Its versatility and adaptability make it a valuable species in a variety of environments, from the Arctic tundra to cold climate landscapes. Whether you are looking to add a unique touch to your garden, or you are interested in the ecological significance of the species, Dwarf Birch is definitely a plant worth considering.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential threats to Dwarf Birch populations, such as climate change, habitat destruction, and over-harvesting. In order to ensure the survival of this valuable species, it is important to be mindful of the ways in which we interact with the environment, and to make efforts to protect and conserve this important species for future generations.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, Dwarf Birch also has potential as a commercial crop. The bark of the shrub is rich in tannins, which are used in the production of leather, paper, and dye. The leaves and twigs of the plant have been used for their medicinal properties, including as a treatment for respiratory infections and skin conditions.

Dwarf Birch can be grown in a variety of soils, as long as they are well-drained. It prefers a sunny location, but can tolerate partial shade. The shrub is low maintenance and does not require frequent pruning or fertilizing. It is also drought-tolerant, making it a great choice for xeriscaping in cold climates.

If you are interested in growing Dwarf Birch in your garden, it is recommended to purchase seedlings or saplings from a reputable nursery. Make sure to plant the shrub in a well-drained location, and protect it from strong winds if necessary. With proper care, Dwarf Birch will thrive in your garden and provide beauty, ecological significance, and cultural value for years to come.

In conclusion, Dwarf Birch is a unique and valuable species with a rich history and important role in the Arctic tundra ecosystem. Whether grown in the wild or in a garden, Dwarf Birch is sure to bring beauty, cultural significance, and ecological value to any environment.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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