Now. Now on a Saturday. Now in January. Now in the winter of the year two thousand and eleven. What catches your eye now? Not that beautiful stranger or that creamy chocolate cupcake, botanical interests only please. With your outside eye, which plants fascinate and enrich during this time of dark-cold? The birch is one. With the absence of leafy green, the bark is ‘appealing’ with curls, texture and shades of white, yellow and gray. Spend some time looking and a new birchian world will open up to you. I used to love grabbing handfuls as a kid and hearing the gentle ripping sound as I pulled it off the tree. It was a paper plant, a plant that produced paper, just for me. It’s always fun harvesting from the forest instead of going to Target for school supplies. Bear Grylls says birch bark is highly flammable and so quite valuable in survival situations. (Truth! I just burned some morning damp bark in the fireplace and it caught fire easily, with a crackle and an eager flame.) Look around and you will see that the Himalayan white birch is a common landscape plant in the Pacific Northwest, hardy to zone 5. It grows 30-50 feet tall, with alternate serrated leaves. The leaves appear a shimmering spring green, darken with summer and turn a warm golden yellow in the fall. My tree is always dropping small branches and twigs, self-pruning I guess. Aphids love this plant as well as I do. When I brush up against the lower leaves in summer I get sticky with aphid dew-poo. This creates puckered leaves. But nature isn’t perfect, so I’m okay with releasing a few ladybugs and calling it a stand-off. This tree is also susceptible to the birch borer, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting this distinguished guest yet. Betula jacquemontii is a tree for now. What else looks good in January? Send me your thoughts….