Tree following: April edition

There are a few problems with my tree following project. First of all, I am not sure what the neighbours think about me leaning out of the bedroom window and taking photographs. I am worried the people in the house opposite might think I am trying to spy on them.

across the road

The thing is, my chosen specimen is so enormous that this is the only way I can get a decent view of the individual branches.

From this angle you can see how splendid the tree is looking in the April sunshine. All those partially-opened leaves make me think of a gauzy veil.

healthy branch

Unfortunately I can’t see the leaves in any detail because the branches are so high up. I probably should have thought of that before! It’s quite reassuring that Lucy, the founder of this lovely tree-following project, has also chosen a tree that is difficult to observe from ground level.

Like Lucy, I find more than adequate compensation in the bark. Of course, the bark is what gives the silver birch its name and it’s one of the reasons I love this species so much.

silver bark

This classic silvery bark is fairly high up. About the first metre and a half of trunk is black and craggy. According to the Woodland Trust, this is a sign of age, since the pale bark ‘sheds layers like tissue paper’.


I’ve been wondering how old my humungous tree is. It’s one of two in our short cul de sac, which is actually called Silver Birch Avenue and presumably takes its name from the fact that there were silver birches growing here when it was constructed. Our house was built in 1906, when Edward VII was on the throne, the Liberal party was in power and England beat France in the first international rugby match (I love Wikipedia). The Royal Forestry Society says silver birches rarely live more than 100 years, but this one is so big that I do wonder whether it was part of the original planting.

There’s quite a lot growing at the base of my tree, including dandelions, goosegrass and chickweed, all of which are edible.


There’s not enough here to make it worth picking them, but perhaps I will take a walk in the woods later and gather enough to make weed pakora. I use this recipe – absolutely delicious



9 thoughts on “Tree following: April edition

  1. Such variety in the one tree! If you had said the pictures of barks were from different trees I would have believed you. The plants at its foot – I’m surprised by how many plants are growing below ‘my’ tree too. Maybe it says something about how deep the roots go? But I don’t think so because one of the roots on my tree shows along the surface. Yet you see other trees where every bit of moisture is drained from the soil around it. I wonder who might know.

  2. What an interesting project. I love silver birches too (in fact, all birches) and I love how they age. Such a great idea to follow one tree and watch it’s changes.

    Your comment re the photograph thing made me laugh. Over the last year I was taking almost daily photos of the garden from a 1st floor window, as I was trying to capture how the light moved over it throughout the year. I did wonder if my neighbours would think I was nuts, or that I spying on them! Mostly though, I think people don’t even notice…

  3. Thank you, Joanna, for visiting my birch, which I guess is only about 20 years old. I have also been anxious about taking certain photos of the tree in situ … not something our less urban Tree Followers have to consider! My bark is also very ‘craggy’ at the base, and I think it was used as a scratching post for the cat who lived here before we did! I hope you enjoy your Pakora.

    • I meant to put something about that song when I commented on your post ! I had completely forgotten it but I also learned it as a child. It might have been at Brownies too! Anyway, it’s been stuck in my brain for days now: Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver …!

  4. Lovely to meet another tree-follower. I’m lucky to be out in the wilds of Suffolk, so I don’t have to worry about freaking out the neighbours…The pakora recipe sounds great – I’ll have to give this a go. I had no idea you could eat chickweed!!

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