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Always Shady Tree - The Prequel #48 Traditional Geocache

Hidden : 08/29/2022
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Geocache Description:

This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest.  This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.


Paper Birch (Tree): Betula papyrifera also referred to as White birch, Western paper birch, Canoe birch, Silver birch.

Secwépemc: qw łín (birch bark); qw łínłp (birch tree)

Nlaka’pamux: qw łín (bark, birch tree); qw łín’łp, qw əłqłin’-éłp, qw əqw łin’łp (tree and chopped wood); xqw łin’t (birchbark cradle)

Nsyilxcən: qw əqw łin, qw əqw łin’ (alder, birch-always shady tree, water birch) qw łin (big white paper birch), qw əqw łin, qw əqw łin’ (alder, birch)

Stl’atl’imx: qw ə́ łʔin (bark, birch-bark container); qw əłʔin-az’ (tree); qw əłalín (birchbark basket)

Tsilhqot’in: ch’i (Paper birch tree and bark); ch’enchay; nanch’ɨł (water birch), k’i (Bog birch), k’ezen (twigs, bark used for tea)

English translation: Paper birch, always shady tree


Family: Betulaceae

Origin: Native

General: Deciduous tree, 30-40 meters tall, often with several trunks reaching diameters of up to 30 inches.

Bark: Saplings are dark reddish-brown, while more mature trees are cream or white, papery, and peeling, with dark horizontal lines. Some trees keep the dark reddish colour of their youth maintaining their unpeeling bark.

Leaves: Oval to egg shaped with short stalks, coarsely double toothed, pale green, the underside is lighter. Leaves will turn yellow in the autumn.

Flowers: Fruiting catkins, both male and female on the same tree, that appear before the leaves. Male catkins are long and dangling with the female catkins being shorter and thinner.

Fruits: The fruits of the Paper birch are winged seeds known as nutlets. Trees begin producing their catkins after 15 years and the tiny mature fruits drop from their female catkins in between autumn and spring.

The Paper birch has six recognized varieties and hybridizes often with almost every other native species in the genus. It is truly a Canadian species and loves to flourish in our northern climate. Distributed across Canada, Paper birch is unable to handle long periods of drought or overly wet soils. It seeks out sites of full sun and its demand for water is greater than the average tree. Growing in a variety of locations including plateaus, forests, and mid elevation mountain slopes, the Paper birch will even grow in flood plains and drainage ditches seeking moisture in the arid climate of the southern interior of BC.

The Paper birch has a growing hardiness in Zones 2 to 7 making it a nice addition to landscapes wild and urban with its showy bark and shade producing leaf cover. As the bark of this deciduous tree does not decompose quickly, it is very useful to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada for technology. This special bark will peel off in strips, making it easy to harvest and use. Bark was harvested from dead, fallen, and downed trees. Do not remove bark from a live Paper birch tree, this will cause permanent black scars and can even kill the tree.

Chaga, or cinder conk fungus grows mainly on the bark of the Paper birch tree in northern climates and is parasitic in nature. This fungus, now gaining popularity in the Western world, has been well known and sought after for centuries in Siberia and other Asian and European countries for its immunity boosting and overall health benefits. Called the ‘King of Herbs’ or the ‘Gift from God’ by Siberians, the chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) has been used since the 16th century in folk medicine throughout eastern Europe. Chaga boasts health benefits such as a treatment for diabetes, lowering cholesterol, heart disease, and even preventing and slowing cancer, but it may react with certain medications and has possible risks. As with most natural supplements, more research is needed to understand all the risks and rewards of Chaga.

Cinder conk fungus, or chaga, was also known to the Indigenous Peoples of BC, however, for an entirely different purpose, fire making. The Stl’atl’imx from Pemberton knew it as pəxw, (tree punk - used for a slow match); the Líłwat called it sabákus (birch fungus); the Secwépemc called it púxw stł’ye (to blow with the mouth) or welmín, wəlmékeʔ, or tíkw en’kten (to ignite); and the Okanagan called chaga stiʔíkw or ktikw (burning coal or birch fungus).

Indigenous Cultural Notes: Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia used the bark of this tree to make cradles, canoes, baskets, and as a medicine for colds. Bowls and baskets were used for cooking, transporting, and storing food. It could be worked into a twine, ropes, or mats. Portable cradles, known as cradleboards, are made of the wood and bark, and are used to carry small children while keeping the mothers’ hands free. The wood was also used to make utensils, dishes, cups, bowls, and even toboggans. The Secwépemc people used the leaves to make soap and shampoo. The bark was a versatile material and was also used to make writing paper.

Interesting Facts: Paper birch is a very fast-growing tree but rarely grows more than 140 years. Birch wood is easy to work with and it has become widely used for pulpwood and veneers. Seeds of the Paper birch require 1-3 months of cold temperatures to germinate! However handy birch was for crafting and fabricating, the lumber of the birch tree makes lousy firewood.

Birch trees can be tapped for their sap. Similar to making maple syrup, in early spring sap flows from the tapped Paper birch trees, dripping as temperatures warm. The collected sap is then cooked down to produce a dark and rich caramel flavored syrup that is high in fructose. Birch syrup is a unique flavor and blends well to sweet and savory dishes. Harvesting this syrup takes considerably more syrup than that of maple syrup, taking about 80 liters of sap to make a single liter of Birch syrup! Proteins, amino acids, as well as other various vitamins and minerals can be found in Birch syrup. 


Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food and/or medicine.


Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks


Traditional Uses of Birch Bark in Canada - 17 Jun 2016

Accessed Aug 29, 2022

Birch among the most Canadian of trees: John DeGroot -Jun 14, 2019

Accessed Aug 29, 2022

Accessed Aug 29, 2022

Maple vs Birch syrup - Leanne Philip

Accessed Aug 29, 2022

Accessed Aug 29, 2022

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