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What is the mystery of the Karelian birch - the mysterious pearl of the northern forests

What is the mystery of the Karelian birch - the mysterious pearl of the northern forests


It is known that ideal wood is considered to be those trees that have smooth trunks without defects. Karelian birch does not fit into the existing canons at all, but is one of the most valuable wood species. Its true beauty lies precisely in its flaws - an unusual marble texture, the solution of which scientists have been fighting for almost a hundred years.

In 1766, the German forester Fokel, who investigated the forests of the northwestern part of Russia on behalf of Catherine II, discovered and first described the unusual trees found there, which in appearance resembled a simple birch, but "were like marble in filling." Almost a hundred years later (in 1857), the Russian scientist K. Merklin gave these trees the name "Karelian birch", since they were first discovered in Karelia. In addition to the Russian name, the Karelian birch also received a Latin name - Betula pendula Roth.

In contrast to the slender white-trunk birch we are used to, sung by many poets and artists, hardly anyone would call this birch beautiful. Karelian birch is an absolutely unattractive low-growing tree with a severely deformed trunk with a large number of spherical swellings and bumps on it.

But under this nondescript shell, a real treasure is hidden. It is the ugly growths and cracks on the trunk of the Karelian birch that form, instead of the annual rings that can be seen on sections of other trees, an unusual pattern of fancy lines, curls, and ticks. Moreover, this drawing on each trunk is unique.

Спил карельской березы

Karelian birch fell

The color of the wood, which can be of various shades - from light golden to dark amber, is also very beautiful. Polished, it shimmers like mother-of-pearl.
In addition, the wood near the Karelian birch is also very strong - it does not rot or split.

From the end of the 18th century, Karelian birch wood was used to make expensive furniture, tableware, caskets, and jewelry. Karelian birch began to be called the "royal tree", the interiors of royal chambers were furnished with furniture made of unique wood.

Зал мебели из карельской березы. Эрмитаж

A hall of Karelian birch furniture. The Hermitage

Комплект мебели из карельской березы. Эрмитаж

A set of furniture made of Karelian birch. The Hermitage
In 1917, Faberge made an Easter egg from Karelian birch for Emperor Nicholas II. For a long time, this masterpiece was considered lost, but now it can be admired in the Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden (Germany).

Яйцо Фаберже из карельской березы, инкрустированное золотом

Fabergé egg made of Karelian birch, inlaid with gold
Mystery tree

For almost 100 years, scientists have been fighting over the mysteries of this tree. At first, it was not even clear what the Karelian birch is - whether it is a separate species or just a variety, a subspecies of some kind of birch. This issue was finally clarified - most researchers agreed that the Karelian birch is an abnormal form, a subspecies, the most common birch in our country - hanging (or warty).

But, as before, there is no unequivocal opinion about the reason that leads to such an unusual shape of the birch trunk and, accordingly, to the formation of patterned wood. Many different hypotheses are put forward - the influence of soil composition, climate, viral diseases, genetic mutations, etc. So research is ongoing.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of these valuable trees began to decrease sharply due to uncontrolled felling, urgent measures had to be taken to save the Karelian pearl. And since the 1930s, Karelian birch began to be grown in special reserves.

Государственный заповедник «Кивач». Карельская береза

State reserve "Kivach". Karelian birch

Изделия из карельской березы. Музей заповедника «Кивач»

Products from Karelian birch. Museum of the "Kivach" nature reserve


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