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The Genus Betula

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This Curtis's Botanical Magazine Monograph is the first published on the birches (genus Betula), the species of which have been notoriously difficult to identify.

Authors: Kenneth Ashburner, Hugh McAllister. 432pp. 244 x 182mm. 100+ colour illustrations, photos and maps. Hardback with jacket, ISBN 9781842461419. Kew Publishing, reprinted with corrections, 2016.

Birches or Betula are among the most attractive and common trees in the landscape and in gardens. Unfortunately, naming even the common white-barked birches can be difficult and many wrongly named trees can be found in nurseries and arboreta. Many species are also known for their autumn colour, including a major contribution to the fall colour in eastern North America. This is the first monograph published on the genus Betula, the species of which have been notoriously difficult to identify. The work is based on a study of herbarium specimens and living material of almost all species, which has only recently become available. Accounts are given of all known birches found in Europe, Asia and North America, both white and brown barked, and a key for their identification. The extensive fossil record and recent molecular work are reviewed and, together with new data not previously published, used to provide information for a discussion of what can be deduced of the evolutionary relationships of the species and species groups. From the authors' experience of growing and propagating almost all species, accounts are given of the cultivation requirements and landscape use of Betula species. With chapters covering breeding, cultivation, conservation, morphology and species descriptions, this is an invaluable tool for arboriculturalists and professional and amateur gardeners. And the full colour paintings by Josephine Hague make this ideal for lovers of botanical art.

The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Annual Awards: Nominated titles: 2014 awards

Media reviews:

Botanical Magazine Monographs, published by Kew, are a series of authoritative monographs, which continue the tradition of the oldest scientific journal in the world, blending botanical accuracy with horticultural information and fine illustration. The Genus Betula is no exception. John Grimshaw, Garden Design Journal


The late Kenneth Ashburner travelled widely in search of birches, to Japan, Korea, Russia, Siberia, the Himalayas, Canada and the USA and throughout Europe and Scandinavia. His specialist arboretum was awarded National Collection status for both wild origin birch and alder in 1994.

 Hugh McAllister lectured in botany at Glasgow, Newcastle, and Liverpool Universities and was Deputy Director at the University of Liverpool Botanic Gardens at Ness. For over 30 years he has been growing and studying birches in co-operation with Kenneth Ashburner. He is the author of The Genus Sorbus (Kew Publishing, 2005).

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