Betula alleghaniensis Britton
Yellow birch is a North American native.
Identification: Trees are 60-70' (18-21 m) tall, rarely reaching 100' (30 m). Tree shape is pyramidal in young trees, and usually uneven in mature trees. The yellowish-bronze bark, easily peeled as with other birches, is unique in appearance; the inner bark has a slight odor or wintergreen. Leaves are alternate and unlobed, 2-4½" (6-12 cm) long and half as wide. Yellow birches have both male and female flowers on the same tree. Male flowers are catkins near twig ends, 1" (2.5 cm) long and reddish green. Female flowers point upright. They are ⅝" (1.7 cm) long and reddish-green. Fruits resemble small cones, ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.2 cm) × ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm).
Edibility: The sap may be harvested and processed like that from sugar maples, though the sugar content is much lower. The inner bark can be cooked or dried, then powdered and used as an ingredient in making bread. Twigs and leaves can be used to produce a tea.
Some members of Acer:
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|Plant||Trees are 60-70' (18-21 m) tall, rarely reaching 100' (30 m). Tree shape is pyramidal in young trees, and usually uneven in mature trees.||Trees are up to 82' (25 m), rarely reaching 98' (30 m). They often have multiple trunks. Trees tend to be pyramid-shaped when they are young, becoming more irregular as they age.|
|Flowers||Yellow birches have both male and female flowers on the same tree. Male flowers are catkins near twig ends, 1" (2.5 cm) long and reddish green. Female flowers point upright. They are ⅝" (1.7 cm) long and reddish-green.||Male and female flowers appear on the same tree. Male catkins are up to 3" (7.6 cm) long in April; female flowers are inconspicuous.|
|Leaves||Leaves are alternate and unlobed, 2-4½" (6-12 cm) long and half as wide.||Leaves are dark green, alternate, unlobed. They are roughly diamond-shaped, with the top half of the diamond more pointed and with doubly serrated edges, while the bottom half is flatter and with smooth edges. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.|
|Stem||The yellowish-bronze bark, easily peeled as with other birches, is unique in appearence; the inner bark has a slight odor or wintergreen.||Bark is highly variable. As with other birches, it peels away spontaneously (“exfoliates”), making the trunk look ragged. It may be dark gray-brown and scaly, pinkish-brown, or white and papery.|
|Fruit||Fruits resemble small cones, ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.2 cm) × ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm).|
USDA Zones: 3-8
USDA Zones: 4-9
|Habitats||Floodplains, swamp or river boundaries.|
USDA Zones: 3b-7b
USDA Zones: 3-6
Betula alleghaniensis on Carolina Nature, from Will Cook
Betula alleghaniensis at the University of Connecticut Plant Database
Betula alleghaniensis at the USDA Forest Service's Silvics of North America site
Betula alleghaniensis on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Betula alleghaniensis at the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Eastman, John; illustrated by Hansen, Amelia, The Book of Forest and Thicket: Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers of Eastern North America, Stackpole Books, 1992, p. 30
Sibley, David Allen, The Sibley Guide to Trees, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, p. 156
Little, Elbert L., National Audabon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Region, Alfred A. Knopf, 1980, p. 180, 487, 617, 364
Dirr, Michael A., Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs, Timber Press, 1997, p. 54
Betula alleghaniensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 5 Oct 2016.