Birch is a tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 or shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

 of the genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Betula (icon Bé-tu-la
Syllable stress of Botanical Latin
Syllable stress of botanical names varies with the language spoken by the person using the botanical name. In English-speaking countries the Botanical Latin places syllable stress for botanical names derived from ancient Greek and Latin broadly according to two systems, either the Reformed...

), in the family Betulaceae
Betulaceae, or the Birch Family, includes six genera of deciduous nut-bearing trees and shrubs, including the birches, alders, hazels, hornbeams and hop-hornbeams, numbering about 130 species...

, closely related to the beech
Beech is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America.-Habit:...

An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 family, Fagaceae
The family Fagaceae, or beech family, comprises about 900 species of both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, which are characterized by alternate simple leaves with pinnate venation, unisexual flowers in the form of catkins, and fruit in the form of cup-like nuts. Fagaceous leaves are often...

. The Betula genus contains 30–60 known taxa. It is widespread on the Northern Hemisphere, across a variety of boreal, mountainous and temperate climates.


The common name birch is derived from an old Germanic root, birka, with the Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 root *bherəg, "white, bright; to shine." The Proto-Germanic rune berkanan
*Berkanan is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the b rune , meaning "birch". In the Younger Futhark it is called Bjarken in the Icelandic rune poem and Bjarkan in the Norwegian rune poem. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called beorc...

 is named after the birch. The botanic name Betula is from Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...



Birch species are generally small to medium-size tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s or shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

s, mostly of temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 climates. The simple leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are alternate, doubly serrate, feather-veined, petiolate, and stipulate. They often appear in pairs, but these pairs are really borne on spur-like two-leaved lateral branchlets. The fruit is a small samara
Samara (fruit)
A samara is a type of fruit in which a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue develops from the ovary wall. A samara is a simple dry fruit and indehiscent . It is a winged achene...

, although the wings may be obscure in some species. They differ from the alder
Alder is the common name of a genus of flowering plants belonging to the birch family . The genus comprises about 30 species of monoecious trees and shrubs, few reaching large size, distributed throughout the North Temperate Zone and in the Americas along the Andes southwards to...

s (Alnus, other genus in the family) in that the female catkin
A catkin or ament is a slim, cylindrical flower cluster, with inconspicuous or no petals, usually wind-pollinated but sometimes insect pollinated . They contain many, usually unisexual flowers, arranged closely along a central stem which is often drooping...

s are not woody and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds, unlike the woody cone-like female alder catkins.

The bark of all birches is characteristically marked with long horizontal lenticel
A lenticel is an airy aggregation of cells within the structural surfaces of the stems, roots, and other parts of vascular plants. It functions as a pore, providing a medium for the direct exchange of gasses between the internal tissues and atmosphere, thereby bypassing the periderm, which would...

s, and often separates into thin papery plates, especially upon the Paper Birch
Paper Birch
Betula papyrifera is a species of birch native to northern North America.-Description:...

. It is practically imperishable, due to the resinous oil which it contains. Its decided color gives the common names gray
Gray Birch
Betula populifolia is a deciduous tree native to North America. It ranges from southeastern Ontario east to Nova Scotia, and south to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with disjunct populations in Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina. It prefers poor, dry upland soils, but is also found in moist...

, white
Paper Birch
Betula papyrifera is a species of birch native to northern North America.-Description:...

, black
Black Birch
Black Birch may refer to:* Betula lenta* Betula nigra* Black Birch Ridge outside of Blenheim on the South Island of New Zealand* the Black Birch Astrometric Observatory at Black Birch Ridge...

, silver
Silver Birch
Betula pendula is a widespread European birch, though in southern Europe it is only found at higher altitudes. Its range extends into southwest Asia in the mountains of northern Turkey and the Caucasus...

 and yellow birch
Yellow Birch
Betula alleghaniensis , is a species of birch native to eastern North America, from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, southern Quebec and Ontario, and the southeast corner of Manitoba in Canada, west to Minnesota, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.It is a...

 to different species.

The buds form early and are full grown by midsummer, all are lateral, no terminal bud is formed; the branch is prolonged by the upper lateral bud. The wood of all the species is close-grained with satiny texture and capable of taking a fine polish; its fuel value is fair.

Flower and fruit

The flowers are monoecious, opening with or before the leaves and borne on three-flowered clusters in the axils of the scales of drooping or erect aments. Staminate aments are pendulous, clustered or solitary in the axils of the last leaves of the branch of the year or near the ends of the short lateral branchlets of the year. They form in early autumn and remain rigid during the winter. The scales of the staminate aments when mature are broadly ovate, rounded, yellow or orange color below the middle, dark chestnut brown at apex. Each scale bears two bractlets and three sterile flowers, each flower consisting of a sessile, membranaceous, usually two-lobed, calyx. Each calyx bears four short filaments with one-celled anthers or strictly, two filaments divided into two branches, each bearing a half-anther. Anther cells open longitudinally. The pistillate aments (catkins) are erect or pendulous, solitary; terminal on the two-leaved lateral spur-like branchlets of the year. The pistillate scales are oblong-ovate, three-lobed, pale yellow green often tinged with red, becoming brown at maturity. These scales bear two or three fertile flowers, each flower consisting of a naked ovary. The ovary is compressed, two-celled, and crowned with two slender styles; the ovule is solitary.


Birches often form even-aged stands on light, well-drained, particularly acidic soils
Soil pH
The soil pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity in soils. pH is defined as the negative logarithm of the activity of hydrogen ions in solution. It ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH below 7 is acidic and above 7 is basic. Soil pH is considered a master variable in soils as it...

. They are regarded as pioneer species
Pioneer species
Pioneer species are species which colonize previously uncolonized land, usually leading to ecological succession. They are the first organisms to start the chain of events leading to a livable biosphere or ecosystem...

, rapidly colonising open ground especially in secondary succession
Secondary succession
Secondary succession is one of the two types of ecological succession of plant life. As opposed to the first, primary succession, secondary succession is a process started by an event that reduces an already established ecosystem Secondary succession is one of the two types of ecological...

al sequences following a disturbance or fire. Birches are early tree species to establish in primary succession
Primary succession
Primary succession is one of two types of biological and ecological succession of plant life, occurring in an environment in which new substrate devoid of vegetation and usually lacking soil, such as a lava flow or area left from retreated glacier, is deposited...

s and can become a threat to heathland if the seedling
thumb|Monocot and dicot seedlingsA seedling is a young plant sporophyte developing out of a plant embryo from a seed. Seedling development starts with germination of the seed. A typical young seedling consists of three main parts: the radicle , the hypocotyl , and the cotyledons...

s and saplings are not suppressed by grazing or periodic burning. Birches are generally lowland species, but some species such as Betula nana have a montane
In biogeography, montane is the highland area located below the subalpine zone. Montane regions generally have cooler temperatures and often have higher rainfall than the adjacent lowland regions, and are frequently home to distinct communities of plants and animals.The term "montane" means "of the...

 distribution. In the British island, there is some difference between the environments of Betula pendula and Betula pubescens, and some hybridization, though both are "opportunists in steady-state woodland systems". Mycorrhizal fungi, including sheathing (ecto-) myccorhizas, are found in some cases to be beneficial to tree growth.

Birch foliage is used as a food plant by the larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e of a large number of Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera is a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies . It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world, encompassing moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies...

 (butterflies and moth
A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. Moths form the majority of this order; there are thought to be 150,000 to 250,000 different species of moth , with thousands of species yet to be described...

s) species; see List of Lepidoptera that feed on birches.


Birches of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

  • Betula alleghaniensis—Yellow Birch (B. lutea)
  • Betula cordifolia
    Betula cordifolia
    Betula cordifolia is a birch species native to Eastern Canada and the North Eastern United States. Until recently it was considered a variety of Betula papyrifera , with which it shares many characteristics, and it was classified as B...

    —Mountain Paper Birch
  • Betula glandulosa—American Dwarf Birch
  • Betula kenaica—Kenai birch
  • Betula lenta—Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch, or Black Birch
    • Betula lenta subsp. uber—Virginia Round-Leaf Birch (endemic, Cressy Creek, Smyth County, Virginia
      Smyth County, Virginia
      As of the census of 2000, there were 33,081 people, 13,493 households, and 9,607 families residing in the county. The population density was 73 people per square mile . There were 15,111 housing units at an average density of 33 per square mile...

  • Betula michauxii—Newfoundland Dwarf Birch
  • Betula minor—Dwarf White Birch
  • Betula nana—Dwarf Birch or Bog Birch (also in northern Europe and Asia)
  • Betula neoalaskana—Alaska Birch or Yukon Birch
  • Betula nigra—River Birch or Black Birch
  • Betula occidentalis
    Betula occidentalis
    Betula occidentalis is a species of birch native to western North America, in Canada from Yukon east to western Ontario and southwards, and in the United States from eastern Washington east to western North Dakota, and south to eastern California, northern Arizona and northern New Mexico, and also...

    —Water Birch or Red Birch (B. fontinalis)
  • Betula papyrifera—Paper Birch, Canoe Birch or American White Birch
  • Betula pendula—Silver Birch, a European birch commonly planted as an ornamental
    Ornamental plant
    Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as house plants, for cut flowers and specimen display...

    , becoming naturalized
  • Betula populifolia—Gray Birch
  • Betula pubescens—Downy Birch also known as White Birch, European White Birch, Hairy Birch (Greenland; also in Europe incl. Iceland, northern Asia)
    • Betula pubescens subspecies tortuosa—Arctic Downy Birch (Greenland; also in subarctic Eurasia incl. Iceland)
  • Betula pumila—Swamp Birch

Birches of Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

  • Betula aetniensis
    Betula aetniensis
    Betula aetnensis. the Etna Birch, is a tree in the family Betulaceae. It is endemic to Sicily....

    —Sicilian Birch
  • Betula albosinensis—Chinese Red Birch
    • Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis—North Chinese Red Birch
  • Betula alnoides—Alder-leaf Birch
  • Betula austrosinensis—South China Birch
  • Betula carpatica—Carpathian Birch
  • Betula chinensis—Chinese Dwarf Birch
  • Betula dalecarlica
  • Betula ermanii
    Betula ermanii
    Betula ermanii, or Erman's Birch, is a tree species belonging to the family Betulaceae. It is an extremely variable species and can be found in Japan, Kuriles, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and Korea. It can grow to be 20 m tall...

    —Erman's Birch
  • Betula grossa—Japanese Cherry Birch
  • Betula jacquemontii (Betula utilis subsp. jacquemontii)—White-barked Himalayan Birch
  • Betula kamtschatica—Kamchatka birch platyphylla
  • Betula litvinovii
  • Betula mandschurica—Manchurian Birch
    • Betula mandschurica var. japonica—Japanese Birch
  • Betula maximowiczii—Monarch Birch
  • Betula medwediewii—Caucasian Birch
  • Betula nana—Dwarf Birch (also in northern North America)
  • Betula pendula—Silver Birch
  • Betula platyphylla
    Betula platyphylla
    Betula platyphylla, or the Japanese White Birch, is a tree species belonging to the genus Betula. It can be found in temperate or subarctic places of Asia: Japan, China, Korea, and Siberia. The Japanese White Birch can grow to be 20 m to 30 m tall.-References:...

    (Betula pendula var. platyphylla)—Siberian Silver Birch
  • Betula pubescens—Downy Birch also known as White Birch, European White Birch, Hairy Birch (Europe incl. Iceland, northern Asia; also in Greenland in North America)
    • Betula pubescens subspecies tortuosa—Arctic Downy Birch (subarctic Eurasia incl. Iceland; also in Greenland in North America)
  • Betula szechuanica
    Betula szechuanica
    Betula szechuanica is a birch species native to Sichuan, China, conical in shape, growing to 20 meters in height, with white bark, yellow-green male catkins or green female catkins, and dark, blue-green leaves.- Synonyms :* Betula platyphylla var. szechuanica* Betula mandshurica var. szechuanica*...

    (Betula pendula var. szechuanica)—Sichuan Birch
  • Betula tianshanica
  • Betula utilis
    Betula utilis
    Betula utilis is a Birch tree native to the Himalayas, growing at elevations up to . The specific epithet, utilis, refers to the many uses of the different parts of the tree. The white, paper-like bark of the tree was used in ancient times for writing Sanskrit scriptures and texts...

    —Himalayan Birch

Note: many American texts have B. pendula and B. pubescens confused, though they are distinct species with different chromosome numbers.


  • Birch wood is fine-grained and pale in colour, often with an attractive satin-like
    Satin is a weave that typically has a glossy surface and a dull back. It is a warp-dominated weaving technique that forms a minimum number of interlacings in a fabric. If a fabric is formed with a satin weave using filament fibres such as silk, nylon, or polyester, the corresponding fabric is...

     sheen. Ripple figuring may occur, increasing the value of the timber for veneer
    Wood veneer
    In woodworking, veneer refers to thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 3 mm , that are typically glued onto core panels to produce flat panels such as doors, tops and panels for cabinets, parquet floors and parts of furniture. They are also used in marquetry...

     and furniture-making. The highly-decorative Masur (or Karelia
    Karelia , the land of the Karelian peoples, is an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia, and Sweden...

    n) birch, from Betula verrucosa var. carelica has ripple texture combined with attractive dark streaks and lines. Birch wood is suitable for veneer, and birch plywood is among the strongest and most dimensionally-stable plywood
    Plywood is a type of manufactured timber made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can usually be locally manufactured...

    s, although it is unsuitable for exterior use.
  • Birch plywood
    Plywood is a type of manufactured timber made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can usually be locally manufactured...

     is made from laminations of birch veneer. It is light but strong and has many other good properties. Birch plywood is used to make longboards
    Longboard (skateboard)
    A longboard is a surfing variant of a skateboard, similar and related to a surfboard or snowboard with wheels. It is used for cruising, downhill racing, slalom racing, sliding, and/or transport. However, most stunts, and the boards themselves are very different from that of a typical skateboard...

    A skateboard is typically a specially designed plywood board combined with a polyurethane coating used for making smoother slides and stronger durability, used primarily for the activity of skateboarding. The first skateboards to reach public notice came out of the surfing craze of the early 1960s,...

    ), giving it a strong yet flexible ride. It is also used (often in very thin grades with many laminations) for making model aircraft
    Model aircraft
    Model aircraft are flying or non-flying models of existing or imaginary aircraft using a variety of materials including plastic, diecast metal, polystyrene, balsa wood, foam and fibreglass...

  • Extracts of birch are used for flavoring or leather oil, and in cosmetics such as soap
    In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

     or shampoo
    Shampoo is a hair care product used for the removal of oils, dirt, skin particles, dandruff, environmental pollutants and other contaminant particles that gradually build up in hair...

    . In the past, commercial oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate
    Methyl salicylate
    Methyl salicylate is a natural product of many species of plants. Some of the plants which produce it are called wintergreens, hence the common name.-Botanical background:...

    ) was made from the Sweet Birch
    Sweet Birch
    Betula lenta is a species of birch native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.-Characteristics and habitat:It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 20 m tall with...

     (Betula lenta).
  • Birch-tar
    Birch-tar or birch-pitch is a substance derived from the dry distillation of the wood of the birch.- Compounds :It is compounded of guaiacol, phenols, cresol, xylenol, and creosol.- Uses :...

    or Russian Oil extracted from birch bark is thermoplastic
    Thermoplastic, also known as a thermosoftening plastic, is a polymer that turns to a liquid when heated and freezes to a very glassy state when cooled sufficiently...

     and waterproof; it was used as a glue
    This is a list of various types of glue. Historically, the term "glue" only referred to protein colloids prepared from animal flesh. The meaning has been extended to refer to any fluid adhesive....

     on, for example, arrow
    An arrow is a shafted projectile that is shot with a bow. It predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.An arrow usually consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end, with fletchings and a nock at the other.- History:...

    s, and also for medicinal purposes.
  • Fragrant twigs of silver birch are used in sauna
    A sauna is a small room or house designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions, or an establishment with one or more of these and auxiliary facilities....

    s to relax the muscles.

  • Birch is also associated with the feast of Pentecost
    Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

     in Germany, Central & Eastern Europe, and Russia, where its branches are used as decoration for churches and homes on this day.
  • Birch leaves make a diuretic
    A diuretic provides a means of forced diuresis which elevates the rate of urination. There are several categories of diuretics. All diuretics increase the excretion of water from bodies, although each class does so in a distinct way.- Medical uses :...

    Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

     and to make extracts for dye
    A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

    s and cosmetics.
  • Ground birch bark, fermented
    Fermentation (biochemistry)
    Fermentation is the process of extracting energy from the oxidation of organic compounds, such as carbohydrates, using an endogenous electron acceptor, which is usually an organic compound. In contrast, respiration is where electrons are donated to an exogenous electron acceptor, such as oxygen,...

     in sea water, is used for seasoning the woolen, hemp or linen sails and hemp rope of traditional Norwegian boats
    Nordland (boat)
    The Nordland boat , is a type of fishing boat that has been used for centuries in northern counties of Nordland, Troms and Finmark of Norway and derives its name from Nordland county where it has a long history...

  • Birch twigs were bound in a bundle, also called birch, to be used for birching
    Birching is a corporal punishment with a birch rod, typically applied to the recipient's bare buttocks, although occasionally to the back and/or shoulders.-Implement:...

    , a form of corporal punishment
    Physical punishment
    Physical punishment is any form of penalty in a judicial, educational or domestic setting that takes a physical form, by the infliction on the offender of pain, injury, discomfort or humiliation...

  • Many of the First Nations
    First Nations
    First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

     of North America
    North America
    North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

     prized the birch for its bark, which due to its light weight, flexibility, and the ease with which it could be stripped from fallen trees, was often used for the construction of strong, waterproof but lightweight canoe
    A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

    s, bowls, and wigwam
    A wigwam or wickiup is a domed room dwelling used by certain Native American tribes. The term wickiup is generally used to label these kinds of dwellings in American Southwest and West. Wigwam is usually applied to these structures in the American Northeast...

  • The Hughes H-4 Hercules
    Hughes H-4 Hercules
    The Hughes H-4 Hercules is a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. The aircraft made its only flight on November 2, 1947 and the project was never advanced beyond the single example produced...

     was made mostly of birch wood, despite its better-known moniker, "The Spruce Goose".
  • Birch is used as firewood
    Firewood is any wood-like material that is gathered and used for fuel. Generally, firewood is not highly processed and is in some sort of recognizable log or branch form....

     due to its high calorific value per unit weight and unit volume. It burns well, without popping, even when frozen and freshly hewn. The bark will burn very well even when wet because of the oils it contains. With care, it can be split into very thin sheets that will ignite from even the smallest of sparks.
  • Birch sap
    Birch sap
    Birch sap is the sap extracted from a birch tree, such as a North American Sweet Birch or a Silver Birch. The sap is often a slightly sweet, thin syrupy-watery liquid...

     extracted by cutting the standing trees is considered a common drink in rural Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

    , Belarus
    Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

    , and Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    . The juice is sometimes extracted, bottled and sold commercially. Similarly in the British Isles
    British Isles
    The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

     the sap is often used to make a wine.
  • Birch seeds are used as leaf litter in miniature terrain models.
  • Birch flowers is the English marketing name for the catkins of the broussonetia luzonica tree. Known in the Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

     as himbabao or alukon, these flowers are commonly used in the cuisine of northeastern Luzon
    Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

    . However, despite their English name and the similar appearance of their flowers, broussonetia luzonica is not in any way related to the birch tree.


  • Birch bark is high in betulin
    Betulin is an abundant naturally occurring triterpene. It is commonly isolated from the bark of birch trees and forms up to 30% of the dry weight of the extractive . The purpose of the compound in the bark is not known...

     and betulinic acid, phytochemical
    Phytochemicals are biologically active chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants . Phytochemicals are the molecules responsible for the color and organoleptic properties . For example, the deep purple color of blueberries and the smell of garlic...

    s which have potential as pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals which show promise as industrial lubricants.
  • Birch bark can be soaked until moist in water, and then formed into a cast for a broken arm.
  • The inner bark of birch can be ingested safely.
  • In northern latitude
    In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

    s birch is considered to be the most important allergenic
    An Allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid...

     tree pollen
    Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

    , with an estimated 15-20% of hay fever
    Hay Fever
    Hay Fever is a comic play written by Noël Coward in 1924 and first produced in 1925 with Marie Tempest as the first Judith Bliss. Laura Hope Crews played the role in New York...

     sufferers sensitive to birch pollen grains.


Wood pulp
Wood pulp
Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material prepared by chemically or mechanically separating cellulose fibres from wood, fibre crops or waste paper. Wood pulp is the most common raw material in papermaking.-History:...

 made from birch gives relatively long and slender fibres for a hardwood
Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees . It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.Hardwood contrasts with softwood...

. The thin walls causes the fibre to collapse upon drying giving a paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

 with low bulk and low opacity. The birch fibres are however easily fibrillated and gives about 75 % of the tensile strength of softwood. The low opacity makes it suitable for making glassine
Glassine is a very thin and smooth paper that is air and water resistant. It is translucent unless dyes are added to color it or make it opaque...


In India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, the birch (Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

: भुर्ज, bhurj) holds great historical significance in the culture of Northern India
North India
North India, known natively as Uttar Bhārat or Shumālī Hindustān , is a loosely defined region in the northern part of India. The exact meaning of the term varies by usage...

, where the thin bark coming off in winter was extensively used as writing paper. Birch paper (Sanskrit: भुर्ज पत्र, bhurj pətrə) is exceptionally durable and was the material used for many ancient Indian texts. This bark also has been used widely in ancient Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 as note paper (beresta) and for decorative purposes and even making footwear
Footwear consists of garments worn on the feet, for fashion, protection against the environment, and adornment. Being barefoot is commonly associated with poverty, but some cultures chose not to wear footwear at least in some situations....



Baltic Birch is among the most sought after wood in the manufacture of speaker cabinets. Birch has a natural resonance
In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at a greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system's resonant frequencies...

 that peaks in the high and low frequencies, which are also the hardest for speakers to reproduce. This resonance compensates for the roll-off of low and high frequencies in the speakers, and evens the tone. Birch is known for having "natural EQ."

The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments, which is technically classified as the membranophones. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a...

s are often made from Birch. Prior to the 1970s, Birch was one of the most popular drum woods. Because of the need for greater volume and midrange clarity, drums were made almost entirely from maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

 until recently, when advances in live sound reinforcement and drum microphones have allowed the use of Birch in high volume situations. Birch drums have a natural boost in the high and low frequencies, which allow the drums to sound fuller.

Birch wood is sometimes used as a tonewood
Tonewood generally refers to any wood which may be used in the construction of a musical instrument. Many acoustic properties are often assigned to specific wood species; however the description of these properties is itself a large subject and beyond the scope of this article...

 for semi-acoustic and acoustic guitar
Acoustic guitar
An acoustic guitar is a guitar that uses only an acoustic sound board. The air in this cavity resonates with the vibrational modes of the string and at low frequencies, which depend on the size of the box, the chamber acts like a Helmholtz resonator, increasing or decreasing the volume of the sound...

 bodies and occasionally used for solid-body guitar bodies. Birch wood is also a common material used in mallets for keyboard percussion
Percussion instrument
A percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound when hit with an implement or when it is shaken, rubbed, scraped, or otherwise acted upon in a way that sets the object into vibration...



  • Birches have spiritual importance in several religions, both modern and historical.
  • They are associated with the Tír na nÓg
    Tír na nÓg
    Tír na nÓg is the most popular of the Otherworlds in Irish mythology. It is perhaps best known from the story of Oisín, one of the few mortals who lived there, who was said to have been brought there by Niamh of the Golden Hair. It was where the Tuatha Dé Danann settled when they left Ireland's...

    , the land of the dead and the Sidhe
    The aos sí are a supernatural race in Irish mythology and Scottish mythology are comparable to the fairies or elves. They are said to live underground in the fairy mounds, across the western sea, or in an invisible world that coexists with the world of humans...

    , in Gaelic folklore, and as such frequently appear in Scottish, Irish, and English folksongs and ballads in association with death, or fairies, or returning from the grave.
  • The birch tree is considered a national tree
    National emblem
    A national emblem symbolically represents a nation. Most national emblems originate in the natural world, such as animals or birds, but another object may serve. National emblems may appear on many things such as the national flag, coat of arms, or other patriotic materials...

     of Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    , where it used to be worshipped as a goddess during the Green Week
    Semik is an ancient Slavic fertility festival celebrated in early June and closely linked with the cult of the dead and the spring agricultural rites. It usually fell upon the Thursday of the Green Week...

     in early June.
  • It is also New Hampshire's
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

     state tree.
  • In the Swedish city of Umeå
    - Transport :The road infrastructure in Umeå is well-developed, with two European highways passing through the city. About 4 km from the city centre is the Umeå City Airport...

    , the silver birch tree has a special place. In 1888, the city was ravaged by fires that spread all over the city and nearly burnt it down to the ground, but some birches, supposedly, halted the spread of the fire. To protect the city against future fires, it was decided to plant silver birch trees all over the city. Umeå later adopted the unofficial name of "City of the Birches (Björkarnas stad)". Also, the ice hockey team of Umeå is called Björklöven, translated to english "The Birch Leaves".
  • In parts of Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

    , young men erect decorated birch trees in front of the houses of their love interests on the night of May 1, to show their feelings.

External links

  • Tree Family Betulaceae Diagnostic photos of many species, Morton Arboretum
    Morton Arboretum
    The Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois, covers 1,700 acres and is made up of gardens of various plant types and collections of trees from specific taxonomical and geographical areas. It includes native woodlands and a restored Illinois prairie. The Arboretum has over 4,100 different species of...

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