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Betula Aetnensis, the Lady of the Woods

The Etna birch: from Northern Europe to the slopes of Etna

White and smooth bark with drawings in the shape of an eye that stand out against the black volcanic sand of Etna: this is the landscape that offers the Betula Aetnensis, the Lady of the Woods that from the cold countries of Northern Europe has arrived on the Sicilian Volcano.

Betula Aetnensis on Etna
Birch trees on Etna

The history of Betula Aetnensis

The White Birch ( Betula Pendula) is a tree with falling leaves, particularly resistant to the cold and diffused mainly in the Northern areas of the Boreal hemisphere: Sweden, Finland and Siberia. Known above all for its capacity to colonize not very fertile soils allowing the reconstruction of the wood, it is found also in Sicily, exactly on Etna.
This was possible thanks to the effects of the last glaciation: thanks to the particularly low temperature and therefore favourable to its spread, the birch has managed to expand in different areas including Sicily. When, at the end of the glaciation, the temperatures recovered, the birch in Sicily desappeared, remaining however in the lands of Etna, the only area whose climate allowed it to survive. Over time the Etna birch has adapted to the climate and volcanic soil until it became an exclusive species of that part of territory: the Betula Aetnensis.

Characteristics of Betula Aetnensis

Unlike the European one, the birch of Etna has a light trunk (given the dry soil there are not enough lichens to colonize the stem) characterized by particular drawings in the shape of an eye, and a light and bright foliage. It is located especially on the norther-east side of Etna between 1450 and 2000 meters, and is a symbol of strenght and rebirth: it is in fact a pioneer species that colonizes the ground preparing it for the next species.
An area of particular interest for the observation of this unique tree species is around Sartorius Mounts, a complex of “button craters” in the north-eastern part of the volcano.

Taking part in one of our tours on Etna you will surely have the opportunity to admire these unique examples, with their colors that contrast the black of the volcanic sand: beautiful in summer with the light and shiny trunks that are painted of further white with the snow that falls in winter and the leaves that from green become golden in autumn.