The word betula is the classical Latin name of birch. Birches can reach a height of 70 ft. with a diameter of more than 2ft. The wood varies slightly among species. All birches have a fine uniform texture. Sweet birch has light-colored sapwood and dark brown heartwood tinged with red.


Birch is composed of 30 to 50 species, 12 in Asia, 4 in N. America, and 4 in Europe. The important species are yellow, sweet, and paper birch. Other birches of some commercial importance are river, gray, and western paper birch. Yellow, sweet, and paper birch grow principally in the Northwestern and Lake States. Yellow and sweet birch also grow along the Appalachian mountains to N. Georgia. Paper birch is also fond throughout Canada and Alaska. Yellow, sweet, and paper birch are the source of most birch lumber and veneer.

Working Properties

Working properties may vary with species. In general, birches split during nailing, but do have good nail holding properties. The wood of yellow and sweet birch is heavy hard, strong, while that of paper birch is light, less hard, strong and stiff. Paper birch is easy to work with hand tools.

Physical Properties

Rated as slightly or nonresistant to heartwood decay. Birches can cause dermatitis.


Birch trees have been used to make everything from tongue depressors to canoes to beer. The bark of the paper birch is a great fuel source for starting fire.

Yellow and sweet birch lumber and veneer are used principally in the manufacture, furniture, cabinets, doors, cooperage, baskets, etc.

Paper birch uses are, toys, paper, turned products, etc.