The beauty of Russian forests is called by her people. And who can doubt the validity of this name? Slender, blond, with thin drooping branches and elegant foliage, she always aroused admiration and joy, since ancient times served as a symbol of all the brightest, personified youth, chastity, beauty.
White birch! How many songs are written about her, how many verses are written, how gently they speak about her in Russia: "birch", "birch", "the road is like a motherland!"
But not only its beauty is our birch. How many people know that it is also a miracle seeder, and a pioneer plant and ... However, we will tell everything in order.Birch (Birch)
Within the Russian Federation alone, more than 90 million hectares of birch forests. But the birch is actively settling in new places, invariably the first to populate areas freed from the forest. Especially willingly and quickly settles birch in the areas of cut down spruce, pine forest, as well as in forest fires. In a short time, its seedlings occupy vast areas, eventually forming dense, wildly growing birch trees. Every year, the birch sows huge open spaces with millions of small, unobtrusive seeds. Birch seeds are very small, and they are enclosed in slightly larger birch nuts.
It is interesting to observe the miracle seeder birch at work. You walk between cheerful, slightly gilded white-trunked trees with the first breath of autumn, a little breeze rustles with leaves, the first yellowed leaves swirl, smoothly descending on the still-cooled ground. Following the leaves, single, just ripened two-winged seeds begin to fall, and soon they are already flying in innumerable squadrons, like small planes. About 5,000 of these seeds are contained in one gram, and on a hectare of birch sows them from 35 to 150 kilograms. Almost 100 million seeds are dropped annually by a birch on one hectare.
Birch seedlings will not be long in coming. True, only a small number of fallen seeds will germinate, but some seedlings have time to break out of the soil in the fall. And as soon as the snow comes down, the first birch winter will appear together ... Small, graceful, with only two or three leaves, the birch shoots resemble tender seedlings of herbaceous plants. I can’t even believe that stately blond trees will grow from these blades.
With the onset of steady heat, birch plants grow strongly towards light and maintain a fairly rapid growth rate over the next 15–25 years. At this age, they reach their peak. Oddly enough, but it was at a mature, 25-40-year-old age, when birch plantations only gained full strength, circumstances arise that eventually lead to their death. During this period, self-seeding of spruce appears under the canopy of a birch forest. Small, like toy, new-year Christmas trees grow stronger, grow rapidly, and over the years outgrow their patrons who are too old. And then the spruce, more and more obscuring the birch trees used to the abundance of light, begins to oppress them more and more. Over time, the ungrateful spruce will completely supplant, or, as foresters say, it will survive, the former mistress of these places - birch. Specialists call this forest drama a change of species.
But birch-sowers themselves are not without militancy. They are not only capable of peacefully exploring fertile flat lands, but they can often, in the full sense of the word, conquer seemingly impregnable places for trees. There are many cases when birch trees successfully grow for many years on old brick walls, on the domes of abandoned churches, even in the hollows of large trees.Birch (Birch)
And what about the usefulness of birch? In the old days the people sang about it like a tree "about four things": "the first thing is to light the world, the second thing is to calm down the cry, the third thing is to heal the sick, the fourth thing is to observe cleanliness." Then with patches of birch lit up the miserable peasant huts; birch gave tar, which greased the creaking horse-drawn wheeled transport in every way; patients were treated with healing birch sap, kidneys, leaf infusion; bath brooms and brooms served peasant sanitation and hygiene.
But in reality, birch was and remains a tree much more useful. We will not talk about its high decorative features, which are very important for landscaping cities and villages. But how not to note the great value of yellowish birch wood, widely used in the national economy? This is high-quality plywood, and furniture, characterized by a delicate, original pattern, boxes of hunting rifles, dishes; from birch wood by distillation get methyl alcohol, vinegar, acetone.
Only now in the construction of birch due to the lack of strength of wood until recently, little has been used. But now, thanks to chemistry, she takes revenge here. I can’t even believe that building farms made of such wood are not inferior in strength to steel structures and at the same time they are more than ten times lighter. Such wood does not have knots, a cross-layer, or other ordinary defects; she does not know and rot, she is not afraid of dampness, and is resistant to numerous pests and even fire. This material is not afraid of a sharp change in temperature and everything is much cheaper than concrete and metal.Birch (Birch)
Modern industry cannot do without the so-called pressed birch wood, from which bearings, gears, and gaskets for pipes are made. These products are characterized by high strength and durability, not inferior in this respect to metal products.
Significantly progressed and the "third cause" of birch - "sick to heal." Preparations made from small black mushrooms (false tinder fungi parasitizing on birch trunks), known as chaga, have been used for some time to fight diseases. Chaga infusions have long been used by the people as substitutes for tea and as a medicine, and now medical research also confirms the high effectiveness of chaga in the treatment of the initial phases of cancerous tumors. Birch sap contains up to 20 percent sugar and is used as a drink and for the preparation of medicinal syrups. Leaves and birch bark are also not useless. Leaves (they have a lot of tannin) is an excellent food for goats and sheep. The top layer of birch bark - birch bark - is the best raw material for the manufacture of tar and various lubricating oils. From tar, in turn, receive a lot of valuable industrial products.
Folk craftsmen make a lot of beautiful and useful things for households from birch bark: light tracery baskets, salt shakers, bread bins. And birch bark as a Russian papyrus?Birch (Birch)
Until now, we have been talking about our usual white birch, as the tree is popularly called. However, she has many (as many as 120!) Close relatives, most of them white. By the way, birch is the only tree among the vast flora that has snow-white bark, and it dyes white a special coloring substance - betulin, named after the mistress herself (in Latin, birch is betula).
There are species of birch that do not contain betulin, in which the bark is cherry, yellow, dark purple, gray and even black.
The birch family is diverse and diverse. By the way, along with birch botanists, the alder genus, the hazel genus, the hornbeam genus, were considered to be among them. Species of birch, as well as representatives of the alder and hazel genera, have settled almost all over the world. In the Soviet Union alone, more than 40 species of birch grow, which occupy the first place among hardwoods in terms of area. By the size of the occupied territory, not a single species of birch can compete with the warty birch, so called because of small, oblong, slightly resinous warts on young branches. She settled down on the plains of the European and Asian parts of Russia right up to the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, in the highlands of the Caucasus and Altai; forms small grove-groves in Western Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan. Neither any particular species of birch, nor all other members of the birch family combined can keep up with it.Birch (Birch)
However, some other species of birch are also noteworthy. In the harsh conditions of Kamchatka, Sakhalin, the Okhotsk taiga, for example, stone birch grows. Her bark is not very attractive, dark gray, shaggy, but the wood is extremely hard and strong. The iron birch from the Far Eastern taiga wood is not only dense, like iron, but also very heavy. I recall the story of a Far Eastern hunter about how two ignorant travelers worked for several days building a raft from such a birch. But as soon as they pushed the finished raft into the water, he went down to the bottom with a stone.
Numerous experiments have shown that iron birch is not inferior in strength both to many metals and to the tropical iron tree-bakout recognized as a “champion of hardness”. For example, parts of special strength, such as sliders of weaving shuttles, are made of iron birch, it is used in many cases when high reliability is required.
Iron birch has dark purple, and in old age almost black bark. Sometimes even experts refuse to recognize birch in such a black-brown tree.
Much can be said about the birch sisters, but one cannot help but recall the youngest of them - Cinderella of the Karelian forests. So affectionately call the Karelian birch people who know a lot about wood. As if ashamed of his homely-looking child, nature hid him away from people's eyes, in the deaf, impassable thickets. In the most remote forests of Karelia, only somewhere in Zaonezhie, one can occasionally meet now, and then a small grove of Karelian birch.Birch (Birch)
Since ancient times hunting for the Karelian birch as the most valuable prey, people have predatoryly destroyed its stocks. Hundreds of kilometers can now be walked through the taiga paths of Karelia - and all in vain. Local old-timers bitterly say that the search for Karelian birch at the time is comparable to the extraction of rare gems. But when a small grove appears among the heaps of gray Karelian granite, it seems that a snow-white cloud has descended to the ground.
The constant destruction of the best specimens nearly led to the complete degeneration of the Karelian birch. Only thanks to the efforts of botanists and foresters was it possible to restore its former glory, and at the same time to dispel the myth of the impossibility of artificial reproduction. Planted with skillful, caring hands, the Karelian native is now successfully growing in the botanical gardens of Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent, and is increasingly found among new forest plantations. Preserves of this rare tree have already been created in Karelia.
There was a lot of heated debate about the Karelian birch. Some were inclined to consider it an independent species, others were only a form of warty birch. "Game of nature!" said the third. But in one, everyone was unanimous - that it was a precious and wonderful tree.Birch (Birch)
Archaeological finds in the area of ancient Novgorod indicate that the wood of Karelian birch was valued in ancient times. For a long time, Karelians paid tribute to pieces of wood of this birch. It is also known that from ancient times until the recent past in Lapland, Finland and Karelia, small pieces of this wood served as a bargaining chip.
Birch trees, similar to Karelian, were once known in several countries of Western Europe. In Germany, this breed was called the royal birch. Sweden supplied its wood to the English markets under the name of lily, or fiery, wood. Wonderful products from Karelian birch were made by our Vyatka artisans. In the manufacture of furniture, unique writing instruments, boxes, chess, cigarette cases, art glassware there was no limit to their skill and ability.
What is the peculiarity of the wood of this almost legendary tree? First of all, attention is drawn to her unique beauty. Such a combination of lines, background colors can not be found in the whole huge woody world. It is no coincidence that Karelian birch is often called wood marble. White-yellow, light brown with various shades of wood strikes her with the unusual shape of tree rings. Numerous bizarre curls, ovals and stars on a golden background, as if emitting some kind of surprisingly gentle light, give the impression that the tree is illuminated from the inside.Birch (Birch)
Much can be added to what has already been said about the Karelian birch, but one cannot but devote a few words to the most offended representative of the birch family, perhaps the most inconspicuous, her dwarf sister. Its botanists are called dwarf birch, and in their habitat they are often called the polar birch. This is the northernmost of the birches settlement. Botanists gave her the scientific name "nana" (in Latin - dwarf). The tiny old-timer of the inhospitable tundra cannot boast of either beauty or excellent wood. She is sometimes taller than mushrooms, and her trunk is no thicker than an ordinary pencil. However, the stamina does not hold this birch. After all, it is she who staunchly endures the hardships of the harsh tundra and boldly confronts all the machinations of the cruel Arctic. In the summer it will turn green, bloom, scatter seeds around, and long before the winter, it is already hiding in scanty snow cover, waiting for new heat.
Dwarf birch selflessly holds the northern border of woody vegetation. Not only beyond the Arctic Circle, but also on the border of eternal snows in the mountains of the Pamirs, the Caucasus, the Tien Shan, the birch tribe faithfully carries out its difficult service.Birch (Birch)
Links to materials:
- S. I. Ivchenko - Book about trees