38. Yellow Birch

(Betula alleghaniensis)

Family: Betulaceae


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West of MacKenzie Hall stands a Yellow birch in a grassy triangle with Douglas firs and a huge English elm. If you can reach a branch, the living twigs smell like wintergreen. Its bark has a horizontal peeling pattern like other birches, but the tree is named for its yellow-tinged dark gray color instead of the familiar chalky white of the paper birch. The catkins, however, and little seed-cones, declare this species a Betula. As an ornamental it serves as a broad shade tree, had bright yellow fall color, is free of insect and disease, but is not liked enough to rival its pale bark cousins.


The wood is close-grained, hard, and strong. It is a great lumber tree in the central and eastern United States, used for furniture, boxes, hubs of wheels, and floors. The wood is too dense to float. Similar to maple trees, the sap can be harvested by tapping the trunk and then consumed as a drink or boiled down into a syrup; however birch syrup has a much lower sugar content than maple.

[Leaves and seeds of Yellow Birch]

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