NT$ 266.00



This birch also known as sweet or cherry birch grows in and along the slopes of deep cool moist ravines. It grows from Maine Quebec and Ontario; to Delaware Maryland and Ohio; and in Georgia and Alabama.

The bark somewhat resembles that of wild cherry. Although the leaves of this and yellow birch are very similar the leaves of the black birch are more heart-shaped at the base.

Oil of wintergreen is obtained by distilling the twigs and inner bark of this tree. One can readily detect the wintergreen oil just by smelling a freshly broken twig. Both birch beer and birch tea are make from black birch.


A beer is made from birch bark. Fernald et al. (1958) quote an old English recipe for the beer:

'To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey well stirr'd together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves and a little Limon-peel keeping it well scumm'd. When it is sufficiently boil'd and become cold add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work...and when the Test begins to settle bottle it up . . . it is gentle and very harmless in operation within the body and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite being drunk ante pastum.'

According to Grieve (1931) Kamschatka natives drink the sap without previous fermentation. In Spring the inner bark can be cut up into noodle-sized strips and cooked as birch 'noodles.' Like maple sap the sap can be used for honey syrup or sugar after boiling down. Wood used by cabinet makers. The oil distilled from the wood is insectifugal and can be used to preserve furs. Sweet Birch oil is used as a counter irritant for arthralgia and neuralgia usually in balms liniments and ointments. It is used to impart a wintergreen flavor in such things as baked goods candies chewing gums dairy desserts gelatins puddings and root beer rarely constituting as much as 0.1% of candy (Leung 1980). Used in cosmetic shampoos (List and Horhammer 1969–1979) and in the sugar industry for flavoring and in perfumery. Birch tar oil distilled from the wood and bark of Betula pendula Roth is used for eczema psoriasis and other skin diseases.

Folk Medicine

According to Hartwell (1967–1971) the birch species are used in folk remedies for abdominal and mammary cancers and carcinomas and warts. Reported to be alterative anodyne antiseptic counterirritant deobstruent depurative diaphoretic diuretic parasiticide pectoral stomachic and vulnerary sweet birch is a folk remedy for burns chafing cold cough dandruff dysentery dysmenorrhea gout gravel lumbago rheumatism scalds sciatica and sores (Duke and Wain1981; List and Horhammer 1969–1979; Erichsen-Brown 1979). The bark has been used as an astringent antiseptic antipyretic and antirheumatic. Cherokee chewed the leaves for dysentery and used the bark tea for colds dysentery milky urine and stomach ailments. Delaware used the bark decoction as cathartic or emetic. Iroquois used it for colds fever soreness and venereal diseases. Ojibwa used bark as diuretic. In the days of Milspaugh much of the so-called oil in wintergreen was made instead from young birch there being little variance between oil of wintergreen and oil of birch (Duke1983c).


Per 100 g the leaves are reported to contain on a zero-moisture basis 28.1 g protein 8.6 g fat 55.6 g total carbohydrate 16.9 g fiber and 7.7 g ash (Miller 1958). Hager's Handbuch lists 3% monotropitoside (Salicylic-acid primvercoside gaultherin C19H26O12) and 0.23–0.6% essential oil 99.8% of which is methysaliclate. Buds contain 4–6% essential oil containing betulol. According to Morton (1977) the distilled oil contains 97–99% methyl salicylate (List and Horhammer 1969–1979).


Very toxic orally methyl salicylate can be absorbed through the skin resulting in human fatalities. As little as 4 700 mg can be fatal in children (Leung 1980).


Aromatic tree with brown exfoliating bark on young stems twigs glabrous. Leaves ovate or elliptic 2.7–10 cm long 1.5–6 cm wide pubescent on the veins beneath apically acute or acuminate; sharply serrate base cordate rounded or cuneate; petioles usually pubescent 0.8–1.9 cm long. Pistillate catkins cylindric or oblong 1.2–3.4 cm long 0.6–1.2 cm broad; bracts glabrous; samaras obovoid 2.5–3.5 mm broad apically winged glabrous (Radford et al 1968).


Reported from the North American Center of Diversity cherry birch or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate heath balds frost shade and slope. (2n = 28).


Southern Maine to southern Ontario southern to eastern Ohio and Delaware along the mountains to Alabama and Georgia.


Estimated to range from Cool Temperate Moist to Wet through Boreal Moist to Wet Forest Life Zones and to tolerate annual precipitation of ca 6 to 15 dm annual temperature of 5 to 12°C and pH of 4.5 to 7.5. Farther south in rich woods and heath balds.


For the oil birch is usually harvested from the wild. Birch seeds do best if stratified or can be sown after collection in late summer or fall. Seed is broadcast and covered very lightly (2–5 mm) keeping the seedbed moist if possible. Epigeal germination is usually complete 4–6 weeks after spring sowing. Seedlings require light shade during their first summer.


Midrange this flowers from April to May fruits ripening from August to September the seeds dispersing from September to November (Agriculture Handbook 450). Birch seed is collected by picking or stripping the cones while they are still green (to prevent shattering). Ripe cones on the other hand are placed in bags to prevent loss of seed. Seedling densities of 250–475 m2 are suggested.

Yields and Economics

Most sources indicate that birch oil which replaced wintergreen oil has been largely replaced by synthetic methyl salicylate. Salicylic acid is now synthesized and selling at ca $2.50 to $3.00 per kilo. Salicylic acid in technical form is used as a coupling agent dye intermediates in the foundry industry as a curing agent in the production of shell moulding compounds as an agent for retarding the vulcanization process in rubber as a preservative for glues and leather goods and in alkyl/alkyd resins and latex paints (CMR Dec. 13 1982). 

Description of Species

Yellow Birch–Betula alleghaniensis (lenta)

The yellow birch is the most valuable birch of New England. In Ohio it has been found locally in Ashtabula County and south to Scioto and Adams counties. Yellow birch is often found in association with hemlock in Ohio. It requires the cool moist soils of north-facing slopes.

The leaves are simple alternate and oval to oblong in outline. Foliage is 3—5 inches (7 1/2—13 cm) long. Foliage is dark green and lusterless on the upper leaf surface. Leaf margins are doubly and finely toothed. The leaf base is cordate. Fall color is an attractive yellow.

Overwintering buds are rather blunt and not sharp. The young twigs are light brown lustrous and slightly aromatic but less so than those of the sweet birch. The intermediate bark of the branches is silver or yellow with thin papery layers separating and often curling at the edges giving the trunk a ragged appearance. On large trees the mature bark is made up of irregular brown plates.

The flowers are in catkins. The male or staminate catkins are purplish and visible all winter until they open in April or May. The female or pistillate catkins are greenish erect shorter and thicker than those of the sweet birch and develop in the spring. Fruit is a cone with deciduous scales that matures in August or September.

The wood is heavy strong hard and close-grained. The sapwood is light-colored but the heartwood is dark red which gives this wood the name of 'red birch' to the lumber trade. The wood is used for flooring woodenware furniture and other uses. It is prized as firewood.

Sweet Birch–Betula lenta

The sweet birch is also known as black birch or cherry birch and occurs in the coves and deep ravine pockets of the sandstone and shale formations of eastern Ohio. Its range extends from Ashtabula County southward to Highland and Adams counties. It attains its best development on cool northerly exposures and on rich slopes where it reaches an average height of 70 feet and a diameter of 2—3 feet. The tree is moderately slow growing but is of value for its protection to the soil in the rugged sandstone cliff areas of eastern Ohio. When found growing in Ohio it is usually associated with the hemlock forest.

The bark of the trunk is dark brown almost black dull and broken into large irregular but not papery plates. The small branches and twigs are glossy with a uniform brown color that looks to have been polished. The twigs are very aromatic. Twigs are cut and distilled for the production of birch oil that is used as wintergreen flavoring. Buds are somewhat pointed and sharp.

The leaves are simple and alternately borne. Leaves are oval to oblong and 3—4 inches (7 1/2—10 cm) long. Foliage is dull and dark green on the upper leaf surface. Leaf margins are finely toothed. The upper leaf surface is glabrous with pubescent veins beneath. The leaf base is cordate.

The flowers are of two kinds. The male catkins are usually borne three to four on a shoot form in the summer and bloom the following April or May. Female catkins or 'cones' open from mixed winter buds. The seeds ripen in late summer or autumn and fall with the deciduous scales of the cone.

Uses - The bark of Sweet Birch in the form of an infusion is used as a general stimulant and to promote sweating. The flavor wintergreen and birch bark in the form of tea was popular among Native American and European settlers. More recently this has been translated into a preference for root beer flavorings. Limited use as a counter-irritant in anti-arthritic and antineuralgic ointments and analgesic balms. Limited use as a fragrance component in cosmetics and perfumes; extensively used as a flavouring agent especially ’root beer’ chewing gum toothpaste etc. (usually very low-level use).

Cautions - Metyl salicylate the major constituent is not exactly toxic but can be very harmful in concentration.
-dilute before use..

River Birch–Betula nigra

This is the only native birch found at lower elevations in the south. It is at home as the name implies along water courses and inhabits the deep rich soils along the borders of streams ponds lakes and swamps which are inundated for weeks at a time. In Ohio it is limited to the southeastern portion of the state extending from Fairfield County in a southeasterly fashion.

Young twigs are not aromatic when crushed. The bark provides a ready means for distinguishing this tree. Bark on 2—10-inch (5—25 cm) stems varies from tan to cinnamon-red in color and peels back in tough papery layers. These layers persist on the trunk presenting a very ragged and quite distinctive appearance. Unlike the bark of our other birches the thin papery layers are usually covered with a gray powder. On older trunks the bark becomes thick deeply furrowed and reddish-brown in color.

The leaves are simple alternate and 2—3 inches (5—7 1/2 cm) long. The upper leaf surface is dark green and the lower surface is a pale yellow-green. Leaves are glaucous (bloomy) beneath with seven to nine pairs of veins. The leaf margin is more coarsely toothed than the sweet or yellow birches. The leaf base is wedge-shaped.

The flowers are two kinds of catkins growing on the same tree. Male catkin buds are conspicuous in the winter but open with the female catkins in April or May. The fruit is cone-shaped about 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) long and densely crowded with little winged nutlets that ripen from May to June.

The wood is strong and fairly close-grained. It has been used in the manufacture of woodenware in turnery and for pulpwood. Since this tree is scattered in its distribution and mostly confined to banks of streams it does not figure largely in commercial lumbering.

Recently this tree has been heavily planted in Ohio's landscapes. All birch trees require acidic soil and are prone to developing an iron deficiency in alkaline soil regions. There is no practical control for the iron deficiency but to properly site this tree. Note that the natural range includes the acid soil regions of Ohio. A cultivar ‘Heritage' was selected for unusually light bark color and is popular. River birch is resistant to the bronze birch borer.

European White Birch–Betula pendula (verrucosa alba)

A graceful tree it is one of the most beautiful of the birches planted quite extensively for lawn and ornamental purposes. Reaching heights of 40—60 feet with a wide uniform crown the European birch has slender drooping branches. The European birch is not as well-adapted to Ohio landscapes as the native canoe or paper birch. Several horticultural types are planted including the cut-leaf cultivar (Betula pendula ‘Gracilis') with fine deeply cut leaves.

The trunk of the tree is short and rather stout. Bark is white on 2—10-inch (5—25 cm) stems and usually peels off in narrow curly strips. The native canoe or paper birch has more colorful bark. Mature bark is deeply furrowed and almost black.

Leaves are 1—3 inches (2 1/2—7 1/2 cm) long with an acuminate leaf tip. Leaves are glabrous and dark green above and lighter beneath with three to seven pairs of veins per leaf. Foliage is more or less triangular in shape. The leaf base is wedge-shaped to truncate.

The bronze birch borer kills the European birch quickly in the landscape. Rarely does the European birch live more than five years in the landscape without an annual spray program. The paper birch has better bark color but develops color one to two years later than European birch and commonly lives for 10—20 years without a spray program in Ohio. Because the bark colors later the canoe or paper birch is less commonly grown in nurseries. 

Analysis of numbers of papers/mentions over time (Agricola database 1970-1996):

Common Name(s): black birch syn cherry birch syn mahogany birch syn sweet birch
Crop Use(s): spice/herb/condiment
Reference Source(s): Sturtevant
Number of Papers/Mentions: 36




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