Yellow Birch

The yellow birch (Betula alleghiensis) gets its name from its peeling bark that has a golden luster to it. It is the largest growing of the birch trees found in North America. Yellow birch does not tolerate direct sunlight very well, growing best where it has partial shade. The native range of yellow birch extends far to the northern states and Canada, but it is also found in the Appalachian Mountains at higher elevations or in cooler microclimatic conditions such as in coves, along streams, or on north facing slopes.

Credit: - Mike Kay

In Frederick County, yellow birch is usually seen alongside streams, growing in conjunction with sugar maple, beech, hemlock, tulip poplar, shagbark hickory, cucumber tree, white oak, black birch, and red maple. Yellow birch produces wind borne seed that matures and drops off the tree in October. The seed may germinate, but the young seedlings do not grow well in the thick litter of an undisturbed forest; seedlings do much better when they are in touch with mineral soil. For these reasons, yellow birch normally germinates after wind throw, logging, or forest fires. Sometimes the seedlings will exploit cracks in rocks, fallen logs, or tree stumps and grow on top of these, often resulting in the stilt rooting condition characteristic of yellow birch. This species often occupies light gap openings in older growth forests. The small twigs of the yellow birch have a wintergreen aroma when some of the bark is peeled away. The black or sweet birch also has similar wintergreen smell. Yellow birch achieves its best development in northern states and the eastern Canadian Provinces where a mature tree can grow to a 100 feet height and a 30 inch diameter. Yellow birch is an important timber species in these northern regions, the lumber used for flooring, furniture, paneling, and veneer.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature note for 7/10/2021