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Photographer's Note

The thing that struck me most about the Finnish landscape was the prevalence of trees. While the millions of pines and spruces were beautiful and of various contrasting colours, the presence of birch trees with their little leaves twinkling in the light and bright white trunks struck me as the most delightful and graceful.

The foliage has a beautiful soft green colour and it is not dense, so it will let plenty of light through. The light fairy leaves respond to the slightest touch of the wind. In cloudy weather, the trees create a pale green healing glade to walk in. After rain, the birches exude a fragrant odour to feast your sense of smell. The birch begins to deteriorate gradually after about 100 years, but in favourable conditions it can reach an age of up to 300 years.

The birch tree holds an important place in Finnish society and not only as their national tree. The birch provided well for those who had the proper skills: in the spring, the birch sap made a healthy drink, and there was always birch bark for roofing, binding, producing baskets and dishes and other containers or even making birch-bark shoes; meanwhile the wood was used for buildings, furniture and especially for tools. The leafy twigs were made into sauna switches, but they could also be dried to make winter fodder for cattle.

Today, one-fifth of the Finnish forests are dominated by birch. During the days of wood-burning stoves, it was important as firewood, and one-tenth of Finnish homes, not to mention most of the saunas at summer cottages, are still heated with birch logs. For decades, the plywood industry relied entirely on birch and now it is a source of excellent paper fibre. Birch sugar, known also as xylitol, is increasingly used in candy (in Finland at least) as it has been proven beneficial to the teeth, unlike other types of sugar.

In the long dark winters of the Northern hemisphere Birch was a wonderful comforting friend. The ancient people sometimes called the tree “the shining one”. Maybe this loving nickname was given, because of the bright silvery bark, or the way the sunlight dances in the leaves or its radiating spirit.

In Zacharias Topelius' fairy tale Koivu ja tähti ('The birch and the star'), two lost children go looking for their home and finally find the right place because they recognize the birch in the yard. A girl in Finnish national costume leaning on a birch tree is by now rather a hackneyed cliché as an emblem of Finland; there must be hundreds of postcards of this subject! Many a young Finnish man has playfully 'wedded' his bride-to-be with a birch bark ring before giving her a real engagement ring.

Looking out of our cottage window (and in fact photographing through it hence the somewhat blurriness of this image), I experienced the magic of these birch watching their leaves glitter in the sun and wind.

Taken from www.the-tree.org and www.virtualfinland.fi

More pictures of Finland here

DuFrank, dragonslayero, JonteW, ktanska trouve(nt) cette note utile

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Additional Photos by Cora Malinak (ayobami) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 208 W: 6 N: 208] (1353)
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