Betula utilis D. Don /
B. bhojpattra Wall.
Himalayan Silver Birch,
Indian Paper Birch
The earliest classical Sanskrit writers attest the
use of 'Birch' bark for literary purposes. Owing to its
papery nature, the bark (peel), was used in ancient times as
a writing material in place of paper. It was valued for
covering umbrellas, hookah-pipes, for packing, roofing,
occasionally as textile and in the manufacture of Russian
leather. 'Kalidasa' mentions it in his dramas and ethics.
The use of this bark was discontinued by Akbar, the Moghul
Emperor, who introduced the manufacture of paper.
|It grows throughout the main
Himalayan range from Bhutan westwards, ascending to an
altitude of 4,200 m. Birch forests occur on open exposed
tracts which are under snow throughout the greater part of
Morphology Description (Habit)
It is a moderate-sized tree that grows up to 20m in height.
It sometimes occurs as a mere shrub,forming the upper limit
of forest vegetation. The bark is smooth, shining, reddish
white or white, with white horizontal lenticels. The outer
bark consists of numerous thin papery layers, exfoliating in
broad horizontal rolls. The inner cortex is red and moist.
The leaves are ovate-acuminate, elliptic, and irregularly
serrate. The flowers bloom in May-June, in pendulous spikes.
Seeds are thin and winged.
The bark contains betulin1. Betulic acid is also
identified from the bark2.
Infusion of the bark is antiseptic, carminative. Betulin,
extracted from the bark, has been used for esterfication.
- Indian J Chem., 1968, Vol.6, p. 37.
- Phytochemistry, 1973, Vol. 12, pp. 214.