I have two white birch trees in the front yard that are about 15 years old. The trees have a small cylinder-shaped brown pod that sheds and disintegrates all over the yard. This is the first year I can remember having such a big mess and was wondering if you might know how we can remedy this situation. Last year we only had about 3 inches of rainfall and was wondering if this might have been part of the problem even though I water every day.
Based on your description, there is nothing wrong with your tree. The deciduous white birch (Betula pendula), famous for its skin-tight, snow white, fissured bark, begins to produce seeds at around 15 years old.
The seed pods to which you refer are female catkins that turn brown as they mature and then shatter, explaining the litter in your yard.
Although the appearance of seeds on your birch is consistent with the life cycle of this species, you are correct in showing concern for its water economy. Native to the wet forests of Europe, white birch requires ample water in our hot and dry climate.
White birch is not a long-lived tree, seldom exceeding 70 years under the best growing conditions. This is due to its ecology as a pioneer tree, a primary colonizer of empty or burned terrain that soon makes way for other species.
In gardens and landscapes, heavy soil interferes with the long-term health of white birch. While requiring abundant moisture, white birch trees demand sandy, well-drained soil. If you notice dried-up stems or branches during the growing season, this is either a sign of insufficient water or, conversely, inadequate drainage.
White birch trees do not compete well with ground covers such as ivy. Because of its moisture requirement, birch is sometimes recommended as a lawn tree, but this suggestion is ill-advised because grass will have a difficult time competing with its greedy roots.
Due to its cold tolerance, white birch will grow well in the Antelope Valley as long as its water needs are met and it is situated in a wind-protected location.
The weeping form of the white birch is attractive to many, especially those who grew up in the Northeast and seek an arboreal reminder of their past. A classic garden design feature involves the creation of a slightly elevated terrain or hillock, in line with the view from a dining room or bedroom window, upon which several white birch are planted.
White birch is on the list of trees used for autumn color since its leaves turn a golden hue before dropping in the fall. In this capacity, it is rivaled by the Modesto ash that, barely noticeable for most of the year, suddenly lights up as cool temperatures take hold.
Leaves change color in response to shortening days and colder weather, yet you do not have to live in New England to see a colorful foliar display during the fall season.
In his “Reference List of Ornamental Plants for Southern California Gardens” (published by the Southern California Horticultural Society), Philip Chandler listed 60 trees, shrubs and vines with distinctive autumn color.
Chinese pistachio (Pistacia chinensis) has a symmetrical domed canopy that burns in fiery scarlet, while ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) emit a golden glow.
If you favor trees with both edible fare and colorful fall foliage, select from persimmon, pecan and pomegranate. For a vine that climbs the walls in reddish-orange, choose Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) or, for a red and gold effect, select Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).
In the shrub department, you will get a kaleidoscopic presentation by planting heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) or Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata).