Yellow Birch
Betula alleghaniensis  

Location in Ontario
Yellow Birch grows throughout the Deciduous Forest Region and northward. It can be found growing on moist soils.



Yellow Birch, Norfolk County
 
Genus Betula
Birch trees are easily recognized by their thin sheets of bark. Young birches have smooth, reddish-brown bark with horizontal marking called lenticels. Leaves are simple and alternate. Birch are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same tree. Seeds are contained in a small nutlet with three lobes and mature in late fall. In Southern Ontario, there are two species; Cherry Birch and Yellow Birch.
 
In the Landscape
Yellow Birch is a medium sized tree, reaching 25 metres in height and living to 150 years. It is not often seen as a landscape tree, as it requires cool, moist soil in the summer.  It has lovely yellowish gold bark and nice form but it does produce a large amount of seeds, and is susceptible to disease.


 Spring leaves, Norfolk County
 

Leaves
Yellow Birch leaves are alternate and simple, with toothed edges. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Bark
Yellow Birch bark has papery shreds often tinged with yellow, leading to its name.
Flowers
Yellow Birch is monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same tree. The male flowers are in long catkins, and female flowers are upright and cone-like. Flowers develop before the leaves, appearing in May. They are wind pollinated.
Fruit
The fruit is a small nutlet, with three narrow lobes, found in the cone-like flowers. The fruit matures in late fall.  Yellow Birch produces a large number of seeds. Some flowers stay on the tree over winter, providing an important food source for birds.

TREE FACT:
The inner bark of both Yellow Birch and Cherry Birch have the fragrance and taste of wintergreen. If you scratch a twig, you should be able to smell wintergreen!

TREE FACT: Birch seedlings often germinate on rotting logs.


Backus Woods, Norfolk County

TREE FACT: Yellow Birch sap can be used to make a syrup similar to Maple Syrup. The sap isn't as sweet as Sugar Maple, but more sap is produced. The ratio for Sugar Maple is 40 litres to 1 litre, whereas Yellow Birch is 100 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup!

Wood
Yellow Birch wood is moderately heavy and hard. It is used for furniture, railroad ties and veneers.
Specific Gravity:
0.62
Janka Harness:
1260 lb
Wood Comparison Chart

Genetics
Yellow Birch will form hybrids with a number of non-native birches. It will also hybridize with Cherry Birch with poor results.


Yellow Birch in early spring, Norfolk County

Link to United States Forest Service Silvics Manual for Yellow Birch.

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