Dwarf Birch - world's smallest... mistake?

Cable

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So, yesterday I was scouting a small nursery I'd never been to. I was told I had to check it out because they had a lot of bonsai stuff... which they did but not much I was interested in. Most of their stuff was really young and I have plenty of that.

BUT, the guy pointed out that two of his starters were birches with one being labeled as "Dwarf Birch - World's Smallest". The guy said it had the smallest leaves of all the birches. Now, I love birches. My old house had three of them and soon after moving into my new one I planted one out front. I couldn't pass up a dwarf birch, whatever the hell that was! I figured I'd learn about it when I got home.

Au contraire! There is not a lot of info out there about these except that they're native to the arctic and hardy to zone 2. Natural form is as a shrub not more than 3' high.

Anybody have experience with these things? Am I just going to kill it seeings as I'm in zone 6? I do plan to pop it in the ground for a few years. The nurseryman said to let it get morning sun and then shade the rest of the day. Other than that I have no idea how to care for this little guy.

2019-05-04 16.21.17.jpg2019-05-04 16.20.59.jpg

Ignore the doggo in the second pic. lol.
 

JudyB

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Sounds cool, don't know a thing about a shrub type birch. I can't see how you'd kill it if its hardy to zone 2, at least not winter kill. I'll bet it does just fine in your climate. Wonder what color bark it will have as it matures, there are many bark variations in birch.

Oh, and I looked specifically at the second pic to see the dogggg....
 

LanceMac10

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If you wanted the white bark synonymous with "birch", I don't think you'll find it here. More towards shiny dark copper. Perhaps it would benefit from a larger container?:cool:
 

Cable

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If you wanted the white bark synonymous with "birch", I don't think you'll find it here. More towards shiny dark copper. Perhaps it would benefit from a larger container?:cool:
No this one does not have white bark. This is more like a river birch. And I'm planning to plant it in the biggest container of all: a planet.

Zone 2 Birch in zone 6? Wanna bet it doesn't like high temps and humidity?
That's what I'm worried about. There are lots of lower zone plants whose range extends into higher zones. This is not one of them. Why? Does it need lower temperatures for germination? Or does heat and humidity cause tissue damage or stress? I'm gonna find out. Good thing it was only $16!
 

Forsoothe!

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No this one does not have white bark. This is more like a river birch. And I'm planning to plant it in the biggest container of all: a planet.



That's what I'm worried about. There are lots of lower zone plants whose range extends into higher zones. This is not one of them. Why? Does it need lower temperatures for germination? Or does heat and humidity cause tissue damage or stress? I'm gonna find out. Good thing it was only $16!
I would have bought this tree, too.
 

Bonsai Nut

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they're native to the arctic and hardy to zone 2
Who knows? I'll be the first to say... keep it protected from the heat in the summer :)

Make sure you keep a photo journal :)
 

M. Frary

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I bet it does just fine in zone 6.
Just because it says it can live in temps down to zone 2 doesnt mean it has to.
For example take the Siberian elm and the Amur maple.
Both zone 2 plants also I believe.
They both enjoy winters that arent as brutal and thrive in zones 6 and maybe 7. As long as they get the proper amount of down time in winter they are fine.
I wouldn't worry much.
Also take a cutting and try to root it.
Keep it in full sun to see how they do,so that way you won't risk the larger one. I'll bet it does great in full sun.
 

Mike Hennigan

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I have one, bought it last year. Repotted a couple weeks ago and pruned the roots pretty hard, seems to be responding quite well. Haven’t been able to find much info on people using it as bonsai. I think they have great potential just based on their tiny leaves. Hope yours survives down there. I’ll throw a pic of mine up here at some point, but not much to look at right now.
 

leatherback

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This is not one of them. Why? Does it need lower temperatures for germination?
Slow growing and out-competed normally.

Many plants are not restricted in their warmer part of the range by the climate but by competition: Other species just do better there..

Each species has a sweetspot where they have optimal growth, which reduces the further you get away from the sweet spot. However, if other species are taller, have stronger roots, are able to start growth earlier etc. they may not find themselve thriving in that zone. (Look at beech; f. sylvatica: It can grow in a wide range of conditions. But only in specific parts you find them as the dominant species. Because of their low light tolerance they can grow under other trees. But once they are in the canopy, their spreading branches close off the light for other species, which might have been growing there before: Beech can only outcompete others in some places, but can live across the temperate zone).

So this birch can stand -20 winters, is able to store they energy in roots and thus survive very hard freezes they win in the arctic. That does not mean they cannot live in other parts of the temperate zone. In nature they are outcompeted. In a bonsaidish they may not be.. I can imagine they are iffy when it comes to their roots. From what I can tell that is where they live.
 
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I know i have an article about these somewhere from a reforestation project on some arctic islands. I'll see if there's anything valuable in there for you.
 

TomB

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These things grow natively in Scotland, among other places, so not necesarily Arctic. I've seen them in a similar environment to wild bilberries / blueberries, including peat-rich moorland and damp wooded areas. I've always thought they could make a nice clump style, that seems to be their natural form.
 

Mike Hennigan

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Interesting. Does the tag list the species and maybe a cultivar name?

The problem with dwarfs is that if they grow too slowly, it becomes difficult to work with.
So Leo, I did a little research on these last summer. They’re not actually a dwarf so to speak. The species name is Betula nana. So it’s not a dwarf variety of a species, it’s just a dwarf like species. If that makes sense.
 

Saddler

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They are very common in the Yukon. Usually found where other trees won’t grow like on a mountain side. I always assumed they were bushes to protect themselves from the wind and more importantly to insulate themselves in the winter from the cold. Being down so low they get covered in snow and probably don’t see much under -10° C. I know they live here in Vancouver in the wild. I haven’t seen them much but I have seen them in gardens, one private and at least two public. Next time I go north it is on my list of trees to scout for.
 

Cable

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Lots of gear info, thank you everyone!

Like Mike said it is listed as betula nana. I am really interested in trying this species out.
 

Bnana

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I have one of these that comes from a Swedish peatbog (came as a hitchhicker in an experiment a friend of mine did in restoration of peatbogs).

It has been growing in a pot in the Netherlands for a while and has no problem with high temperatures. I repotted it this year. It is no longer in pure unfertilised sphagnum with other peat bog species but has some potting soil and nutrients. It grows rapidly now. Not sure how to shape it yet but it does have potential. I'll post a photo when I have the change to make one.
 

Forsoothe!

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Interesting. Does the tag list the species and maybe a cultivar name?

The problem with dwarfs is that if they grow too slowly, it becomes difficult to work with.
Boo Hiss. Dwarfs are better stock for bonsai. I never pass one up BECAUSE they grow smaller and usually slower. I'm old and may drop dead before I end this post, but every thing I do is for mañana.
 

Bnana

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This is Betula nana. It's in early stages but I think the species has potential. It has already lost most leaves as it's autumn.
I'm a newbie and just trying things with several trees I've got. With this one leaf size will at least be easy.
IMG_20191005_131849.jpg
 

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