Black Birch Cherry Birch Sweet Birch

=Habitat and Range.=--Moist grounds; rich woods, old pastures, fertile

hill-slopes, banks of rivers.

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to the Lake Superior region.

Maine,--frequent; New Hampshire,--in the highlands of the southern

section, and along the Connecticut river valley to a short distance

north of Windsor; Vermont,--frequent in the western part of the state,

and in the southern Conn
cticut valley (Flora of Vermont, 1900);

Massachusetts and Rhode Island,--frequent throughout, especially in the

highlands, less often near the coast; Connecticut,--widely distributed,

especially in the Connecticut river valley, but not common.

South to Delaware, along the mountains to Florida; west to

Minnesota and Kansas.

=Habit.=--A medium-sized or rather large tree, 50-75 feet high, with a

trunk diameter of 1-4 feet, often conspicuous along precipitous ledges,

springing out of crevices in the rocks and assuming a variety of

picturesque forms. In open ground the dark trunk develops a symmetrical,

wide-spreading, hemispherical head broadest at its base, the lower limbs

horizontal or drooping sometimes nearly to the ground. The limbs are

long and slender, often more or less tortuous, and separated ultimately

into a delicate, polished spray. Distinguished by its long

purplish-yellow, pendulous catkins in spring, and in summer by its

glossy, bright green, and abundant foliage, which becomes yellow in


=Bark.=--Bark of trunk on old trees very dark, separating and cleaving

off in large, thickish plates; on young trees and on branches a dark

reddish-brown, not separating into thin layers, smooth, with numerous

horizontal lines 1-3 inches long; branchlets reddish-brown, shining,

with shorter lateral lines; season's shoots with small, pale dots. Inner

bark very aromatic, having a strong checkerberry flavor,--hence the

common name, checkerberry birch; called also cherry birch, from the

resemblance of its bark to that of the garden cherry.

=Winter Buds and Leaves.=--Buds reddish-brown, oblong or conical,

pointed, inner scales whitish, elongating as the bud opens. Leaves

simple, in alternate pairs, 3-4 inches long and one-half as wide,

shining green above and downy when young, paler beneath and

silvery-downy along the prominent, straight veins; outline ovate-oval,

ovate-oblong, or oval; sharply serrate to doubly serrate; apex acute to

acuminate; base heart-shaped to obtuse; leafstalk short, often curved,

hairy when young; stipules soon falling.

=Inflorescence.=--April to May. Sterile catkins 3-4 inches long,

slender, purplish-yellow; scales fringed: fertile catkins erect or

suberect, sessile or nearly so, 1/2-1 inch long, oblong-cylindrical;

bracts pubescent; lateral lobes wider than in B. lutea.

=Fruit.=--Fruiting catkins oblong-cylindrical, nearly erect; bracts with

3 short, nearly equal diverging lobes: nut obovate-oblong, wider than

its wings; upper part of seed-body usually appressed-pubescent.

=Horticultural Value.=--Hardy throughout New England; grows everywhere

from swamps to hilltops, but prefers moist rocky slopes and a loamy or

gravelly soil; occasionally offered by nurserymen; both nursery and

collected plants are moved without serious difficulty; apt to grow

rather unevenly.

1. Winter buds.

2. Flowering branch.

3. Sterile flower, back view.

4. Sterile flower, front view.

5. Fertile flower.

6. Fruiting branch.

7. Fruit.

8. Mature leaf.

=Betula lutea, Michx. f.=


=Habitat and Range.=--Low, rich woodlands, mountain slopes.

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to Rainy river.

New England,--abundant northward; common throughout, from borders of

lowland swamps to 1000 feet above the sea level; more common at

considerable altitudes, where it often occurs in extensive patches or


South to the middle states, and along the mountains to Tennessee

and North Carolina; west to Minnesota.

=Habit.=--A large tree, at its maximum in northern New England 60-90

feet high and 2-4 feet in diameter at the base. In the forest the main

trunk separates at a considerable height into a few large branches which

rise at a sharp angle, curving slightly, forming a rather small,

irregular head, widest near the top; while in open ground the head is

broad-spreading, hemispherical, with numerous rather equal, long and

slender branches, and a fine spray with drooping tendencies. In the

sunlight the silvery-yellow feathering and the metallic sheen of trunk

and branches make the yellow birch one of the most attractive trees of

the New England forest.

=Bark.=--Bark of trunks and large limbs in old trees gray or blackish,

lustreless, deep-seamed, split into thick plates, standing out at all

sorts of angles; in trees 6-8 inches in diameter, scarf-bark lustrous,

parted in ribbon-like strips, detached at one end and running up the

trunk in delicate, tattered fringes; season's shoots light

yellowish-green, minutely buff-dotted, woolly-pubescent, becoming in

successive seasons darker and more lustrous, the dots elongating into

horizontal lines. Aromatic but less so than the bark of the black birch;

not readily detachable like the bark of the canoe birch.

=Winter Buds and Leaves.=--Buds conical, 1/4 inch long, mostly

appressed, tips of scales brownish. Leaves simple, in alternate pairs or

scattered singly along the stem; 3-5 inches long, 1/2-2 inches wide,

dull green on both sides, paler beneath and more or less pubescent on

the straight veins; outline oval to oblong, for the most part doubly

serrate; apex acuminate or acute; base heart-shaped, obtuse or truncate;

leafstalk short, grooved, often pubescent or woolly; stipules soon


=Inflorescence.=--April to May. Sterile catkins 3-4 inches long,

purplish-yellow; scales fringed: fertile catkins sessile or nearly so,

about 1 inch long, cylindrical; bracts 3-lobed, nearly to the middle,

pubescent, lobes slightly spreading.

=Fruit.=--Fruiting catkins oblong or oblong-ovoid, about 1 inch long and

two-thirds as thick, erect: nut oval to narrowly obovate, tapering at

each end, pubescent on the upper part, about the width of its wing.

=Horticultural Value.=--Hardy throughout New England; grows in wet or

dry situations, but prefers wet, peaty soil, where its roots can find a

constant supply of moisture; similar to the black birch, equally

valuable in landscape-gardening, but less desirable as a street tree;

transplanted without serious difficulty.

Differences between black birch and yellow birch:

=Black Birch.=--Bark reddish-brown, not separable into thin layers;

leaves bright green above, finely serrate; fruiting catkins cylindrical;

bark of twigs decidedly aromatic.

=Yellow Birch.=--Bark yellow, separable into thin layers; leaves dull

green above; serration coarser and more decidedly doubly serrate;

fruiting catkins ovoid or oblong-ovoid; flavor of bark less distinctly


1. Winter buds.

2. Flower-buds.

3. Flowering branch.

4-6. Sterile flowers.

7. Fertile flower.

8. Bract.

9. Fruiting branch.

10. Fruit.

=Betula nigra, L.=