Sweet Birch

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 Betula subsp. var.  Sweet Birch
Betula lenta subsps lenta 01-10-2005 14.53.56.JPG
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Betulaceae > Betula var. , L.

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Sweet Birch (Betula lenta), also known as Black Birch, Cherry Birch, Mahogany Birch, River Birch, or Spice Birch is a species of birch native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario and southern Michigan, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.

It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 20 m tall with a trunk up to 60 cm diameter. The bark is (unlike most birches) rough, dark blackish-brown, cracking into irregular scaly plates. The twigs, when scraped, have a strong scent of oil of wintergreen. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 5-10 cm long and 4-8 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3-6 cm long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit, maturing in fall, is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.

Sweet Birch was used commercially in the past for production of oil of wintergreen before modern industrial synthesis; the tree's name reflects this scent of the shoots.

The sap flows about a month later than maple sap, and much faster. The trees can be tapped in a similar fashion, but must be gathered about three times more often. Birch sap can be boiled the same as maple sap, but its syrup is stronger (like molasses).

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Betula lenta, Linn. (B. carpinifolia, Ehrh.). Cherry, Sweet, or Black Birch. Tree, 60-70 ft.: trunk dark reddish brown, young bark aromatic, of agreeable flavor: Lvs. oblong-ovate, usually cordate at the base, sharply and doubly serrate, hairy beneath when young, nearly" glabrous at length, 2-5 in. long: cones ovoid- oblong, 1-1½ in. long; scales about tin. long, lobed only at the apex, the middle lobe slightly longer. From Maine to Ala., west to eastern Ohio.—Very handsome tree, round- headed and with pendulous branches when older; attractive in spring, with its long staminate catkins. Bark and Lvs. largely used in domestic practice: branches and foliage yield an oil very similar to oil of wintergreen, and employed for all conditions in which the latter proves useful; bark as well as the oil much used for flavoring.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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