Over the weekend I did some neighborhood foraging for birch branches to make "whisks" for the steam. In Finland and Russia these are used during a sauna session for beating the skin to help bring blood to the surface. In Finnish they are called vihta or vasta. In Russian, largely the same thing is called veynik.
I found a set of newer birch trees that are probably more akin to the Silver Birch that is used in Finland for making vasta. These trees were recently planted and well cared for. They didn't yield too many branches. I made about four from these trees.
Nearby however, only a few blocks from our house, are a number of birch trees that really needed cutting back. I inquired with the home owner/dweller/renter if I could cut back the low-hanging branches, the ones that were in the way of the sidewalk and street and the suckers growing up around the trunks of the trees. I got the go-ahead and had a nice quiet afternoon harvesting birch. These trees were more stringy with droopy branches and also a number of the birch seed pods (not so good probably.). These were perhaps more akin to willow trees. I'm not sure what variety of birch they were. I think they will still have some of the same wonderful aromatic quality in a hot steam room but I doubt a true Finn or Russian was consider these to be the proper type of birch. They will certainly be more authentic than the rosemary twigs we have hastily bunched together for self-whipping purposes in the past.
The final harvest:18 vasta!