The aim of this work is to evaluate the ethnobotanical and ethnopharmacological use of Betula pendula Roth in various regions of Transylvania, in East and Central Romania. Silver birch is an important pioneer species in the country, which has traditionally been used in ethnomedicine, households and various customs. Among the ethnic groups, 55 informants from the Csángós and 68 from the Székelys were interviewed in six villages during field studies occurring between 2007 and 2012. Informants were asked questions about the medical and non-medical applications of B. pendula, focusing on the use of the leaf and woody parts in tools and customs, and on the collection and use of birch sap with its temporal change in local ethnomedicinal knowledge. Differences related to the use of birch among the studied areas were observed. The folk remedies prepared from the sap (“virics”) and leaves were documented in local customs, with similar symbolic roles assigned to birch used in other countries. Sap collection was performed during interviews and by manual means. Four special section types on the trunk were presented, and data concerning the nutritional and ethnomedicinal use of the sap was recorded. Both the significance and use of birch sap have drastically decreased in Transylvania due to the appearance of new phytotherapeutical sources and to social changes caused by migration of young people. We found that this phenomenon is gradually leading to the disappearance traditional harvesting techniques, frequency of use and ethnomedicinal knowledge concerning B. pendula in the studied regions.
silver birch; ethnobotany; medicinal plant; traditional knowledge; birch sap; virics