TREE HUGGERS: Dell and Henry Kross with one of the birch trees on their Wolvi property.
TREE HUGGERS: Dell and Henry Kross with one of the birch trees on their Wolvi property.

Birch not just for the birds - gardeners love them too!

HAVE you ever wondered just how many trees there are in the world? The latest study reveals an astonishing figure of around 3.04 trillion trees. That's about 400 trees for every person. Before human civilization took over there were twice as many trees.

Many gardeners want fast growing trees mainly for privacy but that wasn't the case for Henry and Dell Kross. They've always wanted large trees to provide cooling shade from the summer's heat, beautify their surroundings, for pure enjoyment and to have plenty of room on their large acreage garden.

Surprisingly, deciduous birch trees, all 60 different species, are found in almost all countries throughout the world that have a temperate climate.

The Krosses chose tropical birch, commonly known as Betula nigra, for their Wolvi garden.

Of the 60 species, 11 are endangered, mostly due to habitat destruction and fungal infections.

Birch trees thrive in moist, well-drained soil in full sun, and grow to approximately 12m.

In their garden the lifespan is 40-50 years due to its shallow root system in the unfavourable dry climate. In favourable conditions they can live for as long as 200 years.

Dell said the birch tree is one of her favourite trees in the garden.

"Always love this time of the year, witnessing new growth forming at the top then works its way down the tree. Also love the bark."

Gympie Municipal Horticultural Society members will get a chance to see this fascinating tree first hand when they visit Henry and Dell's residence on Saturday November 19 for the annual general meeting at 2pm.

This will be an informative meeting with president Henry Kross providing an overview of what's happened in the past year, and treasurer Raelene Kross will present everyone with a copy of the finances, assets and liabilities, and also benefits to the society.

Mayor Mick Curran will be chairing the meeting, and all positions within the society will be re-nominated on the day.

Birch business: some interesting facts about birches throughout history

Regarded as a pioneer species because it commonly grows in places destroyed by fire, they have the ability to grow on uncolonized land.

Highly flammable, the bark will burn very well even when wet because of the oils it contains. This prevents it from decomposing, even if the other/remaining part of the tree (wood) is rotten. This has been used as firewood.

Black birch, cherry birch and sweet birch produce strong wood which is suitable for making hardwood flooring and furniture items.

Silver birch wood is excellent timber for carving kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons and spatulas.

The wood of birch trees has been used in manufacturing of craft items, toys, basketball courts and doors and the wood of paper birch has been used in the production of paper.

Baltic birch is highly sought after for the manufacturing of speaker cabinets.

Native Americans often used the outer bark of birch trees because it is lightweight, flexible and easy to strip. The bark from fallen trees was often used for the construction of strong, waterproof but light canoes, bowls and wigwams.

Substances isolated from different parts of birch trees are used in the cosmetic industry for the production of soaps and shampoos, flavouring or leather oil.

In rustic first aid, by soaking the bark until moist in water, it can then be formed into a cast for a broken arm. A useful tip in camping situations.

Pollen released by the birch tree is responsible for 15% to 20% of cases of hay fever in the Northern Hemisphere.

The birch is the natural symbol of Finland. In Finland, the birch leaves are used in the preparation of tea.

Birch sap is used to make wine and beer and traditional drinks in northern Europe, Russia and China. These products are bottled and sold commercially. It can also serve as a substitute for sugar in Lapland and Sweden. Birch syrup, made of sap, is used like maple syrup as a dressing for pancakes and waffles.

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