Black Birch

(Betula lenta)

Other Names:
Mahogany Birch, Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch, and Spice Birch


Betulaceae - Birch Family

Growth Type:
Deciduous tree

Can grow to 80-85 ft in height

The alternate, ovate, leaves are 2-4 in long and 1½ - 3 in wide, and have a finely serrated margin.

In younger trees the bark is characteristic of most birches, with smooth bark and distinct horizontal lenticels. It is sometimes mistakenly identified as a cherry tree. In some older tree specimens the bark can (unlike most birches) develop vertical cracks into irregular scaly plates revealing rough darkish brown bark patterns. This, however, does not occur in all specimens. To verify identification, one can scrape the bark from a twig, and you will not a strong wintergreen scent. This belies the fact that black birch was once used a source for oil of wintergreen.

Spreading root system

Flower Season:
Late summer to early autumn

Flower Appearance:
The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3 to 6 cm (1.2–2.4 in) long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect.

The fruit, maturing in fall, is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.

Miscellaneous characteristics:
The inner bark of the black birch tree contains methyl salicylate. This was the original source for oil of wintergreen. It is also the reason for its analgesic properties.

Moist, cool, ravines and forests with well drained, deep, and rich soil. Occasionally they can also be found in rocky or shallow soils.

Parts Used:
Inner bark, sap, leaves, twige

Wild Food Uses:
The sap can be made into a syrup similar to maple syrup. A flavorful tea can be brewed from the leaves and twigs.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
This tree is used as a treatment for infections, rheumatism, various stomach conditions, fever, severe diarrhea, neuralgia, skin conditions such as boils, gonorrhea, lung ailments and gout. Brew tea to purify the blood, eliminate kidney stones, and expel worms. A tea made from the inner bark and twigs can be used to remedy canker sores of the mouth, urinary tract ailments such as urinary tract infections.

Medicinal Actions:
Anti-Inflammatory, Analgesic, Antiarthritic, Antilithic, Astringent, Anthelmintic, Bitter, Diuretic, Lithotriptic, Stimulant, Stomachic

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