silver birch

Betula alleghaniensis Britton

Yellow birch is an important and prominent timber tree of New York State. It is common throughout the state, except on Long Island, on rich, moist uplands in company with beech and sugar maple, but is found also with red spruce in the swamps and along waterways. The heavy, very strong, hard, close-grained, light brown wood is largely used for furniture, woodenware, flooring, interior finish, airplanes, and agricultural implements. Its value for fuelwood entitles it to a place in farmers' woodlots. Its seeds often sprout and grow from the tops of rotten stumps and logs.

Bark - on young branches close, bright, silvery, yellowish gray in color; with age peeling into thin papery layers that roll back and extend up the trunk in long lines of ragged fringe, making excellent tinder for starting a fire in the rain; on very old trunks becoming rough and furrowed, reddish brown in color.

Twigs - similar to those of black birch though more yellowish brown in color and often hairy, slightly wintergreen-flavored; abundant, spur-like laterals as in black birch.

Winter buds - similar to those of black birch.

Leaves - similar to those of black birch; undersurface somewhat hairy, particularly along veins.

Fruit - similar to that of black birch though usually wider in proportion to its length, falling in late autumn and throughout the winter. Bracts - 3-lobed, distinctly hairy, while in the black birch they are smooth.

Distinguishing features - silvery gray to yellowish bark, peeling in thin sheets; slight wintergreen flavor in bark and twigs; undersurface of leaves hairy along veins.

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