Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), is the most valuable of the native birches. It is easily recognized by the yellowish-bronze exfoliating bark for which it is named. The inner bark is aromatic and has a flavor of wintergreen. Other names are gray birch, silver birch, and swamp birch. This slow-growing long-lived tree is found with other hardwoods and conifers on moist well-drained soils of the uplands and mountain ravines. It is an important source of hardwood lumber and a good browse plant for deer and moose. Other wildlife feed on the buds and seeds.
THE TREE: Birches can reach a height of 70 ft (21m), with a diameter of more than 2 ft (0.6 m). The bark is yellow-gray or straw colored; peeling freely into thin, papery layers on younger trees, but developing ragged, broken plates on mature trees. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 6-12 cm long and 4-9 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin.
WOOD CHARACTERISTICS: The wood of yellow birch and sweet birch is heavy, hard and strong, while that of paper birch is lighter, and less hard, strong and stiff. All birches have a fine, uniform texture. Yellow birch has white sapwood and light reddish-brown heartwood.
Yellow birch is an economically important source of lumber. The wood is heavy, strong, and close-grained. It is used for furniture, cabinetry, charcoal, pulp, interior finish, veneer, tool handles, boxes, woodenware, and interior doors.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: The range of yellow birch extends from southern Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Anticosti Island, the Gaspe peninsula, and Maine west to southern and southwestern Ontario and Minnesota; south to northern New Jersey, northern Ohio, extreme northern Indiana and Illinois; and south in the mountains to South Carolina, extreme northeastern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee.