Around the Block: Birch Forest
It’s quite all white!
Today, Minecraft is made by a team of brilliant people in several places around the globe, but the game was born in Sweden and its Nordic roots have had a profound influence on its look and feel. You can see that influence in Minecraft’s pine forests, mushroom soup, snowy tundra, and most of all in today’s featured biome – the birch forest.
Minecraft's birch trees were added to the game in January 2011 in version Beta 1.2, at the same time as sugar cane, squid, and lapis lazuli. But it wasn’t until The Update That Changed The World that birch got a biome to call home. Today, in fact, there are four birch biomes in Minecraft.
The standard “birch forest” biome is the most common. Its terrain is hilly and – you guessed it – covered in birch trees, with their distinctive silvery bark. There’s also a “birch forest hills” variant, with hillier terrain. But if you want to live somewhere a bit more special, then hunt out a “tall birch forest” or “tall birch hills” biome, which are rarer but include old birch trees that reach much higher into the sky.
All of these biomes are home to the same flora and fauna. There are lots of birch trees (obviously), which make for good building material, and those who like to decorate their homes can harvest rose bushes, lilacs, dandelions, lilies of the valley poppies, and peonies. It’s home to sheep, pigs, chickens, and cows, as well as beehives – so you’ll always have some friendly company when you need it.
At night, though, you’ll want to watch out – the dense forest creates lots of places where spiders, zombies, skeletons, and creepers can spawn – as well as the occasional slime, witch, and enderman. Smart players will cut a well-lit clearing around their home before bedding down for the night, so they can spot any intruders when the morning comes.
Scandinavia is well-known in the real world for its lowland birch forests, which can happily tolerate the colder temperatures. Birch-scented soaps, shampoos, and even drinks are very popular in the northernmost parts of Europe and Siberia. But offer some sympathy to allergy sufferers – birch pollen is probably the most common cause of tree pollen allergies, making life rubbish for about one in five hayfever sufferers every year.
It grows in the rest of the world too – all over Earth's northern hemisphere, from the shores of Greenland to southern Japan. And there are between 30 and 60 different species, from tiny dwarf birch bushes to the large silver and white birch trees. They’re particularly popular among butterflies and moths, which make their home among its bark and branches.
While Minecraft’s birch forests don’t feature any special structures or mobs, the plentiful building materials, subtle landscapes, and diverse wildlife make them an excellent place to set up home.