Birch Tree Information

Overview

Birch trees are part of the Betula genus in the Betulaceae family. The trees are linked closely to the Fagaceae family, which includes oak and beech trees. Birch trees range from small to medium in size and generally appear in regions that have temperate climates. They originate in the Northern Hemisphere.

Characteristics

Birch trees have leaves that are either pointed or simple. The bark of the trees is notable due to having horizontal and long lenticels on the surface, which branch off into papery plates. The bark is basically imperishable because of its resinous oil. It can appear in the colors black, white, red, yellow and silver. The leaves are alternate with feather veins.

Flowers

Birch trees bear monoecious flowers, which means they open up at the exact same time or before the leaves do. They are borne on clusters that are composed of three different flowers. Their staminate aments are clustered, solitary or pendulous and form toward the beginning of the fall.

Naming

The name "birch" has old Germanic origins. It comes from the root "birka," which means shine, bright or white. The Proto-Indo-European root of is "bherag." The scientific name, Betula, is derived from Latin.

Species

There are many varieties of birch trees. Some well-known and common types of birch that exist in North America include the river birch, the dwarf white birch, the Newfoundland dwarf birch, swamp birch, gray birch, silver birch, paper birch, red birch, cherry birch, Kenai birch and the Yukon birch.

Uses

There are many uses for birch trees. Common uses include making a diuretic tea, cosmetic dyes, firewood, birch juice, leather or flavoring oil, production of paper, leaf litter and plywood. Birch trees also can be applied medicinally, due to consisting of phytochemicals, betulinic acid and betulin, which can be used to make pharmaceutical drugs.

Keywords: birch trees, betula, betulaceae

About this Author

Isabel Prontes is a freelance writer and traveler residing in Manhattan, NY. She has traveled to five continents and counting. Her work has appeared on a number of websites, such as Travels, eHow.com and "Happy Living Magazine." Prontes has a professional background in public relations; she received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Pace University.