Chapter 1

The Pioneers

Black Birch   (Betula lenta L.)

AKA  Sweet Birch or Cherry Birch

Birch beer can be made by fermenting the sap (by tapping the trees in early spring).  The leaves can be used for tea.  Oil of wintergreen, distilled from the twigs, bark and wood, can be used medicinally and as flavoring in candy and chewing gum.  Although an excellent firewood, the logs may be too pretty to burn.  Birch wood can also be used for furniture, hardwood flooring, millwork and cabinet work.  “Rare “curly” and “wavy” grain woods are especially valuable.”  The wood harvested from the Black Birch (called either Cherry Birch or Mountain Mahogany) may be stronger than and as hard as, wood produced from Mahogany or Black Cherry.  Improvements in curing this wood has made the Black Birch an attractive tree for the lumberman.

Deer and moose  browse the twigs and bark as do the cottontail rabbits.  The seeds feed the birds and small mammals in late summer and the ruffed grouse munch on the buds during winter.


Easy Recognition
As the birches are the pioneers of the forest (with multiple tiny seeds finding their way even in the most difficult of circumstances), you often see their thick sturdy roots appearing just above the ground (or rock).  These roots seem to grab hold with a “mighty grip”.  The Birch’s classic flower, the catkin becomes the strobile.  This is the fruit that dispenses the tiny seeds.  The bark is classic- dark, glossy and marked with horizontal lenticels or disconnected stripes.  The leaves of the Black Birch are simple, 2 to 6 inches long, ovate or oblong with pointed tips and fine , sharp toothed leaf margins.  The clincher is the heavenly smell.  Scrape the twigs and smell the oil of wintergreen.  Chew the twigs (but don’t swallow) and taste the oil of wintergreen.  The bark of the Black Birch does not peel like the bark of the Yellow or Paper Birch.



Page 4


Return to previous page


About Us | Contact | Answers to questions!