Uses of Birch Trees

Birch trees make a strong visual statement and, with over 100 species available, gardeners have a wide selection of trees from which to choose. Birch prefer an area where their roots can find cool, moist soil. The shady side of a home or building is a good spot, as long as the chosen area is far enough from the structure to accommodate the amount of overhang and growth. Birch trees also have many uses ranging from decorative to water absorption in damp areas.

Screening

Use a birch with a weeping habit, such as Young's Weeping Birch, to block or camouflage undesirable scenery. Larger birch, like the River Birch, can give you the same effect through height. City-dwellers should be aware that some specimens reach a height of 70 feet or more and can cause issues with nearby power lines or drop old limbs and large falls of leaves onto cars and roofs and into gutters.

Decoration

Birch bark is decorative and stands out, giving this tree the ability to stand alone as a landscaping feature. Bark coloring ranges from white to black, white with a reddish hue, salmon, yellowish orange and brown. Depending on the variety you choose, the bark may be smooth, peel or darken as the tree grows older. This adds layers and depth to the tree's appearance.

Absorption

Use a birch to dry out a damp area. If you have a section of lawn that remains wet for a longer period following a spell of rain, a birch can help to absorb that excess water. These trees are not suitable for areas with standing water, but a bit of poor drainage can give the tree's shallow roots the added moisture they require, while reducing the amount of watering a homeowner must perform. It is important to choose a variety that tolerates the conditions unique to your location.

Food Source

Tap your birch for its spring sap. The window for collection is smaller than collection from maples and the process is a bit different with birches, but the end result is a similar, delicious syrup. The University of New Hampshire warns that birch sap has a lower sugar content than maple, requiring far more sap to produce the same amount of syrup, but the rich finished product is not as sweet, has a unique flavor and is useful for making beer, medicinal preparations and candy.

Traditional Uses

Bruised twigs of Yellow Birch can be used to add the scent of wintergreen to your home, according to the Michigan State University Extension. In industry, birch wood is used to make paper and pulp, while birch bark was used by Native Americans to build wilderness shelters, baskets and canoes.

Keywords: birch tree sap, ornamental birch tree, birch tree bark

About this Author

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years' experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.