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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Betula alleghaniensis Britton)

Yellow birch

BIRCH FAMILY (Betulaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A deciduous tree growing to 30 m. in height. Mature trees have peeling bark that ranges from yellow to dark brown to black. The crushed bark of young twigs has a characteristic odor and flavor of wintergreen. Leaves are alternate, serrate, 6-10 cm. long, and range from lance-ovate to somewhat obovate. The leaves have 6-12 pairs of lateral veins and are rounded or somewhat heart-shaped at the base. Catkins are 2-3 cm. long. The pistillate catkins are cone-like and disintegrate when ripe. Staminate catkins form in summer and open the following spring. In flower during April and May.

This birch can be distinguished from river birch (B. nigra) because the latter lacks the wintergreen flavor, and has leaves that are paler beneath and are both doubly serrate and shallowly lobed.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Yellow birch is found in wooded swamps, as well as upland woods, primarily north of the vegetation tension zone. The wood is used for furniture and veneers. Another name applied to this species is B. lutea Michaux.

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Voss (1985).

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