Birch, also called the River Birch, grows along rivers and streams in Southern
Santharia. They use the constantly moving
water to spread their nutlets. These
birches tend to have a reddish trunk that is often smooth when the shed bark is
pulled away. They have very smooth trunks and leaves with a more pointed base to
them. Due to their hauntingly blood-red coloration, many consider these trees to
symbolize sorrow from death and misfortune.
Appearance. The Red Birch, like its name implies, has a reddish color to itís bark. When young, the Red Birch will appear a salmon-pink color, but as it grows, the bark will become a darker and darker red. Some Red Birch trees can reach an almost black color, though most will simply become a dark brownish-red. A few rare trees reach a deep blood-red color and some believe that these trees are bad luck. The bark tends to be extremely smooth, usually, though it seems to shed several outer bark occasionally in light, fragile brownish strips. This happens anywhere to once to three times a week, though it may occur slower in the winter months, sometimes at once or twice every two weeks. This shedding sometimes gives them the ragged appearance of the Yellow Birch. The leaves of the Red Birch have a slightly more pointed base than most other birch leaves. They range from a yellowish green to a grayish green. The cones, which hang down from the branches like elegant ornaments, are usually a light reddish-tan ot reddish-brown. These trees tend to use the river to carry their nutlets rather than the wind.
Territory. The Red Birch is sometimes called the River Birch because it always grows near rivers and streams. It is found primarily in Southern Santharia but will grow as far north as the Vandrina River. It is most commonly found around the Thaehelvil River. However, it can also be found growing quite contently along the Dorashi River that runs through the Steppe of Kruswik as well as the Mashdai that runs through the Auturian Woods. It grows as far south as the plain of Uderza, just at the western border of Occen's Lake where the Sharadon River flows out of it.
Usages. Because of its beautiful red color, the Red Birch is sometimes used for woodworking. However, because its wood is a bit damper than most woods due to its residing near rivers and lakes, it must be dried out before being used. However, it is popularly used for furniture, sculptures, and ornaments. Red Birches arenít often used for firewood, as they donít burn very well. However, their suppleness makes them superb for bows and arrow shafts. Their sap can also be used as a water source in times of drought due to its sterile quality and has a slightly sweet taste to it.
Reproduction. See main Birch entry.
Myth/Lore. It is said that the Red Birch was once as pale and graceful as her sister the Mithril Birch, but sorrow and blood touched her roots, staining her wood and drooping her leaves forever. A number of legends on this theme may be heard around Santharia; three exemplars are given below.
"Thee Redd Byrch ys a tree whych must bee advoyded at any cost. Slumber nott under yts branches nor use thee of yts wode, for those who do shalt surlie dye, though yt be not soon butte late, and the affronted tree shalle drynke of theyre blode, as thou mayst tell by yts redd-stayned barke and wode..."
from A Herbarie Of Southren Santhara, 1322, found in a Grotharene monastery
"By Thaehelvil there stands a tree
As fair as ever grew.
A boy there was who loved to come,
To praise her silver hue.
Among her branches he would climb,
Under her shade he'd lie,
And let the day pass over him,
And let the night go by.
The lad grew tall, the tree the same,
Their love did flourish still.
But one day lad with lass did come,
To sit beside the rill.
The lass another's maid was she,
That third came swift behind.
His rage was high; the lad he slew,
Nor to the lass was kind.
The wind in birch's branches cried,
As down the bodies twain
Did drift the stream, with bloody hue
The water there to stain.
By Thaehelvil the tree still stands,
Her bark and wood is red,
And all her offspring bear the mark,
For love, and blood so shed."
"The Birch so Red", by Alain Minstrelson, 1438
"I heard t'was a babe that all unwatched of his ma did go astumblin' down to the birch woods, and, so my granther told me, t'was a great boar out of the woods did come, roarin' and pawin', and though the men in the fields looked up, and the babe's da arunnin' like darkelves was chasin' him, the boar had the babe 'gainst a tree in a candlespark. Just a wee something amovin', and the red mad eyes wantin' it crushed out o' life, aye.... Then the men did get there, an' it was hoe an' harrow and axe to the boar, wi' more blood on its tusks ere t'was down. So, my granther said, the next morn every tree in th' wood, the whole grove t'was stained as it might be with a thousand babes' blood. An' our village be not a usin' the Red Birch's wood from that day and forehenceward, no, not a branch lest we be freezin' of the coldest winter..."
as told by the oldest woman of Chrondra Village, in the curve of the Mashdai River.