Birch tree from seed?

DionKar333(8/9)November 17, 2011


I recently collected a number of Weeping Birch and Japanese White Birch seeds, and I dearly want to grow them, but I found some information that says birches do not grow true from seed. However, this is contrary to most information I have on birches. So, does anyone have experience with birches? anyone know for sure whether they grow true from seed or not?

I want to say that they do, so long as they aren't hybrids, because they have distinct species which are pure bred species. (Platyphylla, pendula, and ermanii are all distinct species).

Any input will be greatly appreciated!

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


"Non-hybrid" seeds (seeds produced from same-species plants) will produce that species. However, frequently when people say "come true from seed", they mean that the seed will produce an offspring very similar to the parent. In other words, some cultivars (especially with garden annuals, for instance) are reproduced from seed. This is not usually the case with woody plants. Most tree and shrub cultivars must be reproduced vegetatively (cuttings, grafting, etc). So, I think the dependencies you are perceiving may be due to inconsistent uses/understandings of the phrase.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 11:17PM
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Thanks Brandon, your information helped to clear things up. I am 99% sure the seeds I collected were pollinated by the same species, so hopefully they turn out alright. is probably not the best place to find good information, as that is the only site which said that birches do not come true from seed. I understand genetic variation within the same species might cause a few changes, but the way to article was written made it sound like they never come even close to the parent plant. Ah well, thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 11:27PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Yes, I learned a long time ago that certain internet sites are only a good reference source if you bet against them. LOL

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 11:42PM
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Birches are notorious for hybridising easily (particularly between species with the same chromosome number), and are wind-pollinated, so it is impossible to be sure that they were pollinated by the same species. Very likely, they are not.

Also (as I see from your 'My Page' that you're in the USA) note that all European and Asian birches are highly susceptible to bronze birch borer in the USA.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 9:57AM
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I understand that they are wind pollinated, but the reason I am 99% sure they are not hybrids is because I collected the seeds from groves of each pure species, with no other species to be found for miles. Because of these conditions, I think it is safe to say they were all pollinated by the same species, since there were literally no other types of birches for miles around.

Everyone says that Birches are susceptible to bronze birch borer down here, but of all the thousands of birches I have seen in my city, none of them had any kind of disease or infestation. I don't know if that's just luck, or every single person who has them is taking super good care of them (very unlikely). And there are all types of birches, river, weeping, bog, European, downy, etc.

Thanks for the considerations, but I don't think I have anything to worry about.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 11:31AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hmmmm ...

i think you are confusing this all a bit ....

if you take open pollinated seed.. FROM A NAMED CULTIVAR ... we all say.. it most likely will not come true from seed ...

in other words.. you will most likely NOT get the NAMED CULTIVAR.. from the seed ....

but then you say: I collected the seeds from groves of each pure species ... and i wonder how you came to that conclusion ....

if you know enough species ID stuff.. i dont know why you would be confused ..

so.. in summation.. i am baffled ... lol ...

good luck with your seed ...


    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 1:32PM
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It is really quite simple Ken. I know quite a bit about plants in general, but recently became interested in birches. I learned what I could from them, which is enough to positively ID quite a few species. However, I was slightly confused because I read a few erroneous bits of information that claimed no birch ever comes true from seed. However, Thanks to common sense and the input from the fine folks of this site, I was able to piece together that named cultivars do not come true to type, but pure species do. The groves I collected seeds from were pure species. One grove had nothing but Betula Pendula, so the collected seeds are most likely Betula Pendula. There were no other birches for miles around (except more pendula, though the concentration became less dense the farther out you went.)

Because of the rather large radius of only pendula being around, I can safely say I have pure pendula seed. The same applies to the Japanese White Birch. This grove was on someone's private property (I got permission to collect seeds). Again, this grove was started from pure betula platyphylla and no other birches were found for miles. I collected seeds from the center of each grove to have the best chances of pure seed collection.

In short, I was just a bit confused about birches coming true to type from seed, but it was cleared up. I do not have seeds from named cultivars, I essentially have wild type seeds. On an unrelated note, Ken, what's with all the "...." ?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 3:54PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

I think you *might* be confused about CULTIVAR versus SPECIES versus HYBRID. Note that what follows is somewhat layman, so I probably got some details wrong which I'm sure someone here will correct me on.

A species, speaking in terms of plants, is any group of plants which readily interbreed and are generally very similar in appearance, habits, etc.

A cultivar is a CULTIvated VARiety of a species. They tend to occur randomly from mutations in genes, and often the genes which produce their characteristics are recessive. Therefore, they are usually reproduced vegetatively because the characteristics which produce such plants are masked by dominant genes, even when cross-bred with another member of the same cultivar.

A hybrid is a cross-breed between two species. Sometimes this happens naturally in the wild, but often-times it is done unnaturally by humans. Especially in the latter case, hybrids usually can only be reproduced vegetatively because hybrids between species are often sterile.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 4:38PM
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Curious where you are that you can find extensive pure plantations of Silver Birch and Japanese White Birch? - they're not species I'd expect to see planted like that!

"On an unrelated note, Ken, what's with all the "...." ? "

That's just Ken being Ken, he always puts them in every post ;-)


    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 7:09PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Sounds to me like Dion probably has a reasonable understanding of the terms. There are a few things I would change about each of Famartin's definitions, but unless Dion has further questions about those terms, I think we're good.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 7:20PM
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Brandon, I would say we are good. All of us probably have our own variations on all these terms and definitions, but I got the gist of the information.

Resin, to answer your question, I live in San Jose. I have to drive a ways out (toward Saratoga), but I still managed. I was as surprised as you were. The Japanese White Birch was pure luck, some very wealthy person with a lot of land happened to really like those specific birches. This was out toward Cupertino. The Weeping Birches were in some sort of park or nature preserve, and even the surrounding houses had weeping birches (which I strongly suspect they got from the nature preserve.)

Famartin, I wasn't confused about any of that, but I do appreciate the nice definitions.

Well everybody, thank you very much for all your help, it really cleared everything up. I'm off to start these little buggers!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 3:40AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

... its just a style.. or lack thereof ... lol

anyway.. sounds like you are well on your way .... i think at this point.. you are simply down to planting your seed ... and continuing your observations for the next decade or two ...

i like to think of the '...' as more of a conversation around the campfire .. rather than a proper written thesis in an editors hand ... shooting the bull is more of a give and take of sporadic thoughts.. rather than a properly formed thesis ... in proper MLA form ....

in my experience.. the web.. with its 40 million hits per search topic is thoroughly baffling .. and that is the beauty of GW.. we can hope to focus you in your search for knowledge... and in this case.. by this point.. JUST PLANT THE SEED ... and let us know what happens ...

good luck

keep us posted.... over the next decades


    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 8:13AM
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Good luck!

As far as I know, California is justabout the only part of the USA that doesn't have bronze birch borers, so you should be OK for now at least. But they have been spreading west, and are now in the PNW (Seattle area, etc), so I'd suspect it's only a matter of time before they spread down to CA.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 1:26PM
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To further what Resin has said, it could be the very fact of these groves being in what is essentially "non-birch" territory that has allowed them to be borer-free. No other host trees around for great distances equaling in this case, freedom from the insects.

I see that you clearly know what you're doing. And I would add.....even if somehow some cross-pollination did occur, the resulting progeny should still be worthy plants. Best of luck.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 5:00PM
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