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Edible uses


Inner bark - cooked or dried and ground into a powder and used with cereals in making bread[1]. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply[K].

Sap - raw or cooked. A sweet flavour[1][2][3][4]. The sap is harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk. It flows abundantly, but the sugar content is much lower than maple sap[5]. A pleasant drink, it can also be concentrated into a syrup or fermented into a beer[6][5]. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- \"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.\"[7]. A tea is made from the twigs and leaves[1][4]. The dried leaves are used according to another report[6]. An excellent flavour[5].

The twigs and leaves have the flavour of wintergreen and can be used as condiments[6].

Unknown part

Inner bark

Material uses

The bark is waterproof and has been used by native peoples as the outer skin of canoes, as roofing material on dwellings and to make containers such as buckets, baskets and dishes[8]. Wood - close-grained, very strong, hard, heavy. The wood is too dense to float[5]. An important source of hardwood lumber, it is used for furniture, boxes, tubs of wheels, floors etc[9][10][11][12][13]. It is also often used as a fuel[9][10].

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Yellow birch is little used medicinally, though a decoction of the bark has been used by the native North American Indians as a blood purifier, acting to cleanse the body by its emetic and cathartic properties[8]. The bark is a source of 'Oil of Wintergreen'[5]. This does have medicinal properties, though it is mainly used as a flavouring in medicines[5].

Unknown part


Ecosystem niche/layer

Secondary canopy

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame[14][15][16][17]. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position[14][15][17]. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame[16][17]. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help[17]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring - do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter[14][15][16][17].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Betula alleghaniensis. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sheltered position[18][19]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Dislikes wet soils[19]. Shade tolerant[19].

A slow-growing tree, it is relatively long-lived for a birch, with specimens 200 years old recorded[13]. Plants often grow taller than the 12 metres mentioned above[13]. The trees are highly susceptible to forest fires, even when wet the bark is highly inflammable[5]. The bruised foliage has a strong smell of wintergreen[19]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[20].

Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus[19].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Betula alleghaniensis. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Betula alleghaniensis.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Betula alleghaniensis
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    12 x 3 meters
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (1982-00-00)
    2. ? 2.02.1 Kavasch. B. Native Harvests. Vintage Books ISBN 0-394-72811-4 (1979-00-00)
    3. ? 3.03.1 Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Depf of Agriculture. ()
    4. ? Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3874292169 (1984-00-00)
    5. ? Lauriault. J. Identification Guide to the Trees of Canada Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Ontario. ISBN 0889025649 (1989-00-00)
    6. ? Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Duke. J. Handbook of Energy Crops - (1983-00-00)
    8. ? Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    9. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    10. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America. Dover Publications Inc. New York. ISBN 0-486-20278-X (1965-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
    13. ? Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. ISBN 0442238622 (1980-00-00)
    14. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
    15. ? McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed. Grower Books ISBN 0-901361-21-6 (1985-00-00)
    16. ? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
    17. ? Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2. Thompson and Morgan. (1988-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.1 Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
    19. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    20. ? ? Flora Europaea Cambridge University Press (1964-00-00)
    21. ? Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PFAFimport-43