Tapping the Birch Tree for Sap in March - Collecting Birch Sap a clean sugar rich water

Thursday, 13 November 2008 18:01

Collecting Birch Sap

During the first two weeks or March

In this article I will show you how to collect birch-sap easily and quickly during spring. Birch Sap can be collected during the first couple of weeks during March. This is the true start to spring, sap rises throughout the tree's in preparation to spring into life producing their buds and leaves. Birch Sap is a slightly sweet, watery & healthy drink. The Birch tree purifies the water, making it clean and safe to drink.


Identifying a Birch Tree

Im no tree expert, but I do know there's three types of Birch to keep an eye out for:

- Silver Birch - Betula pendula
- Downy Birch - Betula pubescens
- Paper-bark Birch - Betula papyrifera

I find the easiest way to identify the tree is by looking at the bark, take a look:

The two photos above are of the Paper-Birch (Betula Papyrifera)


Collecting the Sap


My method is simple and fast; a few feet up the trunk of the birch I line the tip of my knife against the tree, quite steeply at an upward angle and then give a sharp smack on the butt of my knife driving the blade a few centimetres in.


Give the blade a very gentle and small wiggle and you should see watery-sap coming straight away. If there's no sign of any sap its the wrong time for the tree, come back another day!

Once you have your slit and sap running, insert a small shaved stick into the slit at the same angle that your blade went in, this should be steep so that the sap easily runs down the stick and into your container. Make sure the stick is pushed in enough to stay and then if the sap is running correctly next go about rigging up your container to the tree, you can see a few examples here on this page.

It wouldn't take too long and you could easily have a couple of litres. Don't be worried about taking the sap from the tree, its not damaging, at this time of the year the tree will just suck up even more water to fill its supplies. Having said that there is no need to excessively harvest one tree, if you want a lot of sap use multiple trees.

On the right you can see how much sap I collected in about 15mins. I am quite lucky with this tree, its literally about 3 foot away from a stream so its got a constant supply of good water.

collecting birch sapcollecting birch sap from birch tree in march


Caring for the Tree


Be sure to never leave a forgotten tap running. When you are finished, be sure to press down hard the flap of raised birch-bark to close the slit as best you can. Do not leave the stick in the slit when you are finished and don't try blocking the slit up, just press down hard to seal the gap as best you can and the birch-sap will do the rest. Be sure not to accidentally leave any litter behind. Take only memories... leave only sap droplets... the slugs love the stuff!


There is an interesting discussion here that might interest you, its titled: Birch Tapping - Is it harmful to the tree?

Thanks for reading this article I hope you have enjoyed it and will get out and collect your own sap in future years, Enjoy.


Comments (31)
31 Sunday, 08 January 2017 13:45
Having being forced to live outside for 9 months (late summer onwards) in the UK I took to my army skills and books to work out living 'at one with nature' in the woods, I never come across this though oddly enough!
Having been in from the cold for 3 years and back on my feet now so to speak I often return to the outside and nature to go back to that 'being at one', it calls to me so very very loudly and I often miss it.
I agree with the ethics of respect and giving back that which has been taken and only taking what you need.
Just recently I saw Ray Mears on his program doing this and it's sparked off something inside me again.
This year my son and I will try this while we eat from the land.
30 Thursday, 11 August 2016 11:00
Hey great site.
I love birch syrup ,I've made my own wine from it and it tastes amazing.
Great job on the information.

29 Thursday, 09 June 2016 12:24
chris woods
very interesting
28 Sunday, 24 January 2016 09:00
arlette wales
Hi very inspired and excited thanks for details
When do you think south wales
We have many birch frees.

Is it possible to process without freezing it ,,,?
Sorry if iI ask stupid questions.
But really keen to bottle it, and take to local food bank, how to lightly pasteurize it..first,,,.......

I appreciat. Any advice.need a little . If pozsible.
Many thanks
27 Saturday, 21 March 2015 12:28
Silver Birch O.A.P.
One of the Birch trees in my garden just started to leak sap itself. There is a wound in the lowest lying branch, and the sap was pouring out of this at a really fast rate yesterday. Just after the eclipse. No idea if there is a connection or not. Sap is also coming from other branches higher up; too high to see what the damage is to these branches. It is an old tree. The trunk would be too wide to put your arms round. There is well established ivy growing up the tree, whereas a younger Birch has none. I don't know how the damage to the lower branch was caused. A passing lorry along the back lane may have bumped the lower branch, but that wouldn't account for the higher branches. It's all happening too high up to reach to plug or cover anything. I've been collecting the sap. It keeps on going, so I've run out of bottles. I'm wondering what to do to look after the tree. I'm also wondering if it is a sign that the branch/tree will be falling down soon?! What does a Birch tree look like when it's at the end of its life. My back garden is on to the backway used by cars to a small extent, and walkers to a wider extent. Haven't tried drinking the water yet. Having done a bit of reading, am going to do this now ...
26 Sunday, 11 January 2015 22:40
It seems that there is a lot of fame around birch water lately! Looking on google, it seems it will even be commercially available in the UK soon. The brand is called Sibberi. Has someone already tried it ?
25 Monday, 10 March 2014 23:04
M husband trimmed our birch over a week ago. It is still dripping sap/water. The tree is about 8 years old. Should I be worried ?
24 Friday, 14 February 2014 17:02
A great read I enjoyed it thank you
.frank mansbridge.
23 Friday, 22 March 2013 20:12
nice one...Ialso saw the Rae Mears vidio, quite an elaborate tap....if you've got the time..
I like your Idea, its quick, simple & less damaging to the tree.

Good Health to you & yours
22 Thursday, 14 March 2013 09:03
Gwyn James
Nice to see this knife technique. Rather than drilling the tree, an almost industrial scale practise, Take what you need and no more, leave no trace ethics are being practised no one casually passing would see what has been done.
21 Sunday, 03 March 2013 13:28
Irene Brown
Learnt this from my brother Michael. After drinking a glass from him I have just tapped into my first birch tree. Lookin forward to reaping :)
20 Sunday, 17 June 2012 13:05
Ashley Cawley
Just March when the sap is rising, so it could change slightly depending on your area, generally in the south-west it's around the first few weeks of March, the further North you go the longer it might take for the sap to rise.
19 Saturday, 16 June 2012 21:36
si bush
This is a great skill to have really want to give it a try can u do this any other time of year or is it just march ?:-\
18 Thursday, 22 March 2012 01:19
Andy pandy
If you boil the sap down for quite a long time and reduce it to a thick(ish) toffee brown colour, its absoulutly great on pancakes and ice cream! Really sweet and tastes like candy floss..............HHHmmmmm!
It can take quite a lot of sap to get a small amount of syrup, but it's weel worth it.
17 Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:44
billy lord
silver birch sap is brillient when you use it to make a cuppa tea
16 Monday, 28 February 2011 10:09
Lee green
I went out yesterday and I tried taping the silver birch out for myself and it is a very good trait to have out in the wilderness.
15 Monday, 20 December 2010 17:10
Hello, that's how maple syrup is made from the maple tree. But you need to boil the sap after you collected it from your bucket.
14 Monday, 31 May 2010 19:40
P. Erkki
When you tap it yourself it you should drink it fresh. On the other hand in Finland and some other countries it is commercially available around the year.

13 Thursday, 15 April 2010 11:39
Hello and thanks for the video and article.This is very helpful. I want to try this out without hurting too much the tree - I have a very strong birch pollen allergy and have read that the birch sap may help removing it. See this http://www.cybis.se/craft/birch/index.php.
12 Tuesday, 13 April 2010 09:41
sandra doherty
very interesting article
11 Friday, 19 March 2010 23:59
Amanda Krug
Great videoering in there is a recipe for cookies or some other use for the
10 Thursday, 18 March 2010 13:27
D Aston
Is it correct that Birch bark has anti carcinogen properties? If so , what?
9 Tuesday, 09 February 2010 20:56
i was just wondering if this tecnique works with any other types of trees??
8 Saturday, 30 January 2010 19:55
paul neale
will do,when i get a digi camera sorted (im a bit behind with all this technology!) still getting used to a computer! :-)
7 Thursday, 28 January 2010 11:31
Ashley Cawley
Im glad you are enjoying our articles & videos Paul. Feel free to send us in a photo of your knife :)
6 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:14
paul neale
nice little video! its always nice to have these little bits of info in the back of your head just in case but even better when you have a picture of how its done.thank you.(that knife of yours is strangely almost identical to one i made for myself):-)
5 Wednesday, 06 January 2010 21:17
nice straight forward instruction for a wannabe
tree tapper.
thank you
4 Tuesday, 15 December 2009 13:29
I also saw the Ray mears episode and was very interested to discover that the sap can be used to make beer or wine, in actual fact it is not sap, sap is produced by a tree, this is simply water sucked from the ground. I am looking forward to March to tap and makes some spring birch wine.
3 Tuesday, 08 December 2009 09:27
Ryan Horner
Great idea, this is the one way i respect as a naval cadet instructor and this method will be taught to my cadets.

Thank you
2 Saturday, 05 December 2009 11:36
I saw Ray Mears do the same thing, however he used a more efficient superior technique. He ended up with a bucket full of sap but importantly after he was done he bunged up the hole with a piece of branch cut to size. Ray Mears is the undisputed God of bushcraft.
1 Friday, 10 April 2009 19:28
Some time ago I watched a Ray Mears program about tapping the sap of a silver birch tree, and was interested to find out more about it. This does not mean that I intend to go about the countryside with a knife to tap every birch tree in sight but I was particularly interested in knowing about how the tree is cared for after tapping.
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