Identification and taxonomy of Betula (Betulaceae) in Great Britain and Ireland


  • Andy Amphlett



introgression, ploidy level, hybridisation


Floras and identification guides typically do not list the full range of identification features that discriminate between Betula pendula Roth and B. pubescens Ehrh., and some accounts contain errors. Discriminatory identification features are described and illustrated. Introgression from the diploid, B. pendula into B. pubescens is widespread. It also occurs from B. nana L. into B. pubescens, but obviously introgressed examples of the latter are probably rare. Betula pubescens presents the greatest unresolved identification difficulties. Trees identified as B. pubescens subsp. celtiberica (Rothm. & Vasc.) Rivas Mart., particularly in Wales, may be part of the variation within British B. pubescens, due to introgression from B. pendula. The most widespread of the small-leaved forms of B. pubescens is correctly named var. fragrans Ashburner & McAll. Several misapplied names have been given to this taxon, most recently subsp. tortuosa (Ledeb.) Nyman, which does not occur in Europe. Not all small-leaved B. pubescens are var. fragrans; some examples show clear signs of introgression from B. nana, and may be referable to the northern var. pumila (L.) Govaerts.