Please Don’t Plant Birch Trees in the Grassland

It’s not their place and in midsummer they’re shutting down for the year. Give them a break and plant them where it is cool and damp.

There’s a basic misunderstanding going on in Vernon, where I live, which says that birches grow in soil and need water to survive. This thinking is based on a model of growth which sees plants as conduits evaporating off water and drawing water from the soil to replace it, dragging minerals along. Maybe so, but the speed at which it takes place is going to take its toll and age the leaves prematurely. That’s where a second misunderstanding is operative, the one that analyzes trees, sets their base state as a stem, which has leaves that open and fall, and that’s that. Thing is, the primary system is that of the leaf; the rest is secondary. Water flowing through the trunk is all fine and good, but it’s leaf health that matters.

Summer, in other words, is not a time of year but a rate of metabolic activity. It can pass quickly in dry hot air or slowly in cool wet air. It’s not that birches need soil and water. They need the proper sky. We might set the roots of the trunk in the soil, and call that “planting”, but we are really setting this sky creature in the air, or at least in a space between water and air. Wet soil doesn’t cut it, not because it’s the wrong soil but because it’s the wrong air. Let’s start planting our sisters in the correct sky.

Lilac, by the way, agrees. This is the sky for grass. Please plant that. It responds to it intimately, matching its maturity to dryness of air.


5 replies »

  1. Most of what goes on in a tree takes place underground in the roots. That is where they feed and communicate. Leaves take care of one function. You might enjoy reading The Hidden Lives of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.


    • Hi, I have two copies of Wohlleben kicking around here, one in English and one in Geman. 🙂 I’m following Goethe’s observations on the leaf as the original form of the plant, as it moved through metamorphoses to create its other structures. Very cool stuff. At any rate, Wohlleben just scratched the surface. Trees are pretty awesome, aren’t they.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. September (and maybe August) got away from me, and I’ve been absent from your blog. I’ll try to catch up a bit, gradually. This post is interesting (as all yours are). It sure feels down here (Fidalgo Island, WA) that leaf health is important – we had a drought this summer, and many leaves dried, curled and fell prematurely. It pains me to see the redcedars with so many rust-colored leaves. Ouch. I like the notion of summer being a rate of metabolic activity – it sure did shorten up this year, at least it looked that way.
    And I must compliment you on the photos – the first two especially have such a light, airy, delicate quality. Gorgeous, and respectful of the subject.


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