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A tree ordinarily from 40 to 60, occasionally over 100 ft high, with a silvery-white trunk; branches pendulous at the ends; young wood not downy, but furnished with glandular warts. Leaves broadly ovate, sometimes rather diamond-shaped; 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide; broadly wedge-shaped or truncate at the base, slenderly tapered at the apex, doubly toothed; not downy, but dotted with glands on both surfaces; stalk 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long. Fruiting catkins 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄3 in. wide, cylindrical; scales glabrous except on the margin; middle lobe the smallest.
Native of Europe (including Britain), especially of high latitudes; also of parts of N. Asia. This birch, with B. pubescens (q.v.), forms the B. alba of Linnaeus, but most authorities now concur in separating them. The species is easily distinguished from B. pubescens by the warts on the young branchlets and by the absence of down on all the younger vegetative parts. In the latter respect it differs from all the other cultivated birches except B. populifolia. It is a more graceful tree than the downy birch and is found on drier soils. (For timber value etc. see B. pubescens.)
A study of the cut-leaved birches of Scandinavia, by Nils Hylander, was published in Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift, Vol. 51, part 2, 1957.
† cv. ‘Birkalensis’. – Leaves with three or four acute lobes on each side, reaching about half way to the middle. An authentic tree at Kew is of remarkably columnar habit.
f. crispa – Although it may well be that the epithet laciniata has been applied to this form, it was also used for a birch very near to ‘Dalecarlica’ (see below). A leaf of f. crispa is figured in the note by Per M. Jorgensen in The Plantsman, Vol. I, pp. 253-5. According to him, it has been planted in Sweden in place of the true and rarer ‘Dalecarlica’, but so far as is known it has not been cultivated in this country.
cv. ‘Dalecarlica’. – It was stated at the bottom of page 427 that ‘so far as is known’ the specimen trees mentioned were of the true Ornäs clone, i.e., the cultivar to which the name ‘Dalecarlica’ properly belongs. But it seems that this is not the case. The correct name for the commercial clone is ‘Laciniata’, and indeed the Swedish cut-leaved birch now in cultivation was at one time sold under that epithet. It is very similar to the true Ornäs birch, although, according to H. J. Grootendorst, the leaves of the latter are up to 3 in. long, against 2 in. only in ‘Laciniata’, and the winter-buds are blunt, whereas in ‘Laciniata’ they are pointed (Dendroflora, No. 10 (1973), pp. 21, 23). He considered ‘Laciniata’ to be the finer tree.
The history of ‘Laciniata’ is unknown, but it was in commerce in Holland in the 1860s and almost certainly came from Sweden. There is in fact a strong possibility that it is the birch listed by Loddiges in his 1836 catalogue as Betula laciniata. It is true that Loudon considered this birch to belong to the American B. populifolia, which also has cut-leaved forms. However, his belief may simply have been based on the long-acuminate leaves of the Swedish cut-leaved birch, leaves with a prolonged apex being the distinguishing feature of B. populifolia in its normal form.
The true ‘Dalecarlica’ was put into commerce in Sweden in 1886, but it is now rare even there (Jorgensen, op. cit. supr.). In 1932 the Boskoop firm of F. J. Grootendorst and Sons imported propagation material from Sweden of the true clone, and it is still raised in Holland in small quantities (H. J. Grootendorst, op. cit.).
Finally, it should be stressed that the clones ‘Dalecarlica’ and ‘Laciniata’ are very similar, and would both be referable to B. pendula f. dalecarlica (L.f.) Schneid.
specimens: Windsor Great Park, 70 × 33⁄4 ft and 60 × 33⁄4 ft (1978); R.H.S. Garden, Wisley, Surrey, 62 × 33⁄4 ft (1975) and 60 × 3 ft (1981); Sheffield Park, Sussex, pl. 1910, 70 × 4 ft (1974); Taymouth Castle, Perths., 110 × 53⁄4 ft (1983).
cv. ‘Fastigiata’. – This has attained 95 × 61⁄4 ft in Alexandra Park, Hastings (1983). A new cultivar of similar habit, briefly mentioned in the reprint, is ‘Obelisk’. The original tree was noticed by P.L.M. van der Bom in a wood near Arras in northern France in 1956 and propagated by his firm. It is likely to be an improvement on ‘Fastigiata’, with a much whiter bark and narrower crown (F. J. Fontaine, Belmontia, fasc. 13 (1970), pp. 176-7).
cv. ‘Laciniata’. – See under ‘Dalecarlica’ above. Space was found for a short reference to this cultivar in the reprint, but contrary to what was there stated this cultivar almost certainly arose in Sweden.
† var. lapponica (Lindquist) B. verrucosa var. lapponica Lindquist; B. brachylepis V. N. Vasiliev – This very distinct variety has a smooth white bark that does not become black and furrowed at the base of the trunk, even on old trees. The branchlets are less pendulous than in normal B. pendula, and it differs too, according to Lindquist, in its rather leathery, broadly deltoid leaves with coarse, obtuse serrations and its thicker female catkins. A native of northern Sweden and Finland; also of the Urals, according to the Russian botanist Vasiliev, who has given it the rank of species. It is also allied to B. platyphylla (q.v. in this supplement) and perhaps linked to it by intermediates.
† B. aetnensis Raf. – An endemic of Mount Etna, Sicily, this is perhaps no more than a local race of B. pendula, differing in its smaller leaves to about 1 in. long, not glandular on the upper surface, more shortly acuminate and not markedly biserrate. The Etna birch is provisionally recognised as a species by Pignatti in Flora d’Italia, Vol. 1, p. 108 (1982).
B. verrucosa or pendula var. laciniata of many authors, not Wahl