Trees

Birch

Within a life span similar to our own (which is relatively short in the tree world), Birch trees can completely transform their environments. A pioneer species, they have the ability to move into a piece of open ground, and transform it into woodland. Their deep roots can draw a vast amount of nutrients up through the earth which they return to the soil in the Autumn when they lose their leaves. This creates favourable conditions for other tree species to move in. For this reason, Birch trees symbolise new beginnings, growth and rebirth.

They are sometimes referred to as ‘nurse trees’ due to the amount of other species that they support and create habitats for, from other trees, to fungi and wildlife.

Their beautiful, easily recognisable white trunks light up any Winter’s day and they are associated with the Winter Solstice and the return of the light after the shortest day. As we enter Spring, Birch are also celebrated as one of the first trees to Spring into life and have many reasons to be celebrated throughout the seasonal cycle.

At this time of year, I love to gather their nutritious young leaves to enjoy fresh in teas and salads as well as dry them for future teas. They are rather bitter in taste and have a wealth of Spring properties – celebrated for detoxing the body and removing the stagnancy of Winter. They are used in the treatment of rheumatism, kidney stones and UTI’s and their cleansing properties can also benefit the skin. As with any plant remedy, is it important to ensure it is right for you individually, researching especially if you have any health conditions and introducing it gently to see how it works for you.

We would love to hear about your experiences or connections with the beautiful Birch tree so feel free to leave us a comment.



Trees

Yew

The second tree that I have been journeying with recently is the Yew tree, Taxus baccata. Typically associated with the Samhain season, I have found myself really connecting and learning about this tree this Spring season with my wonderful book ‘Walking with trees’ by Glennie Kindred as my companion.

Like Willows, Yews are dioecious meaning that trees are either male or female. In the Spring the male trees produce an array of flowers covered with golden pollen. This pollen is carried by the wind to the smaller flowers of the female trees that will go on to produce the red berries in the Autumn.

Yew trees were deeply revered by our ancestors as the ‘tree of immortality’ due to their longevity and ability to regenerate. After the last ice age, around 80% of Europe’s forests were comprised of Yew. Fossil records provide evidence of Yew trees growing around 250 million years ago. With human evolution stretching back just 6 million years ago, there is no doubt humans evolved and lived around these fascinating trees from the very beginning. Known to live for thousands of years, a Yew tree only becomes classed as ‘ancient’ at around 900 years, compared with 400 years for an oak tree. Many of our ancient Yews have been lost in Britain. However those that remain often guard sacred sites, burial mounds and some were probably planted as markers for navigating by.

Yew trees are able to grow in the harshest, most barren and polluted lands and have survived many changes in the climate. They have some fascinating survival strategies including being able to slow down their growth and remain dormant for longer than a human lifespan. They are known to become hollow, to increase their strength, and the foliage that drops down inside the trunk provides a rich compost from which an aerial root can regenerate and grow a new tree inside the old one.

All parts of the Yew tree are poisonous (bark, leaf, sap and seed) other than the red flesh of the fruit that is wrapped around a poisonous seed. This is probably what earned the tree it’s more recent name of the ‘tree of death.’ Whilst it is important to be aware and respect their poisonous qualities, their ability for regeneration and survival under almost all conditions means for me, it is a tree to be celebrated too in this Spring season of rebirth.

Yews are a tree I cannot wait to spend more time exploring this year. Whilst I will not be using any parts of the physical tree for incense or medicine, I will certainly work with its energy and qualities in my own life when I feel in need of some perspective, inner strength and ingenuity.

Foraging, Trees

Willow

I feel very lucky to have received some wonderful books for my birthday this year, one being ‘Walking with Trees’ by Glennie Kindred (one of my favourite authors and nature connectors).

It has inspired me to form an even deeper connection with some of our lovely native and naturalised trees in Britain and I thought it might be nice to share some of my journeying here, starting with Willow a beloved tree all year round, but particularly special in Spring.


Willows are one of the first trees to grow in Spring, symbolising regeneration, new beginnings and letting go of the old.

There are over 400 species of willow worldwide but the most common to Britain are White Willow, Goat Willow, Crack Willow and Common Osiers or basket willow.

The trees are dioecious meaning they are either male or female, with the striking ‘Pussy Willow’ catkins growing on male Goat willows before the leaves grow. The female flowers develop with the leaves later in the Spring. Both the flowers and leaves are very important nectar and food source for many insects throughout the year.

It is thought that the the words ‘Wicca’ and ‘Witch’ were derived from the word ‘Willow’ and the tree has many ancient associations with healing, rituals and magic.

Traditionally Willow has been used as a pain relief, with the bark containing salicin, from which Aspirin was derived in 1899.

I love using Willow in any rituals connected with the Moon, releasing stuck emotions, old energy, welcoming the new, connecting with our intuition, welcoming Spring, emotional healing and lifting the spirits.

I burn both the bark and leaves, hang up bunches of Willow leaves and collect a few stems in early Spring to put in water and watch the catkins open.

Traditionally willow leaf infusions have been used for sore throats, toothe ache and helping to eliminate toxins from the body. The bark is used in treatments for rheumatism, muscle aches and stiffness and indigestion.


Willow is a wonderful tree to get to know more, growing near water she always offers a seat of peace beneath her branches to soften and watch the world go by. I look forward to walking beside her during the months ahead and sharing some more about her magic!