Click on image to enlarge.
Scientific name: Arthropoda: Insecta: Lepidoptera: Saturiidae:
Common Name: Information Sheet, Yellow Birch
Photographer: E. M. Barrows
Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Betula alleghaniensis Britton, Yellow Birch
(Strausbaugh and Core 1978, 295; Sutton & Sutton 1985, plate 68; Petrides 1988, plate 34)
Note: This information sheet temporarily has images of a Promethea Moth which consumes birches.
General roles in forests. BAs are autotrophs that generally live in forests, forest edges, and successional areas. Many kinds of organisms consume dead and living BA fruits, leaves, roots, and stems.
Specific roles in forests. This species can be common in some forests, such as the Fernow Experimental Forest. A particular sawfly species (= a wasp) feeds on its leaves. The Beaver, Cottontail Rabbit, and Varying Hare eat BA bark. Prairie Chickens, Red Squirrels, Ruffed Grouse, and Sharptailed Grouse eat BA buds during the cold season. Red Squirrels eat BA buds during the cold season. White-tailed Deer prefer Yellow Birch as browse (Grimm 1957, 141). Moose consume BA.
Human uses. Some people ferment that sweet sap of Sweet Birch (a similar species) to make birch beer (Bell and Lindsey 1990, 62). We distill oil of wintergreen from young twigs and inner bark. Sweet Birch is a more prolific producer of this oil tha BA. Campers and others start fires using BA's thin bark which is highly inflammable, even when wet. Some people consume birches as flour, syrup, and leaf tea (Peterson 1977, 200). We make boxes, doors, handles, high quality plywood, interior finish, flooring, fuel, furniture, plywood, veneer, and wooden ware from its wood. BA is the most important lumber birch in the U.S. Workers often stain birch wood with cherry or mahogany finishes. This wood can take a high polish.
Comments. Leaves and twigs smell like wintergreen as does Wintergreen (a plant species in the Heath Family (Ericaceae, distantly related to birch). BA has a mild wintergreen fragrance, while Sweet Birch has a strong wintergreen smell. Sweet Birch is easily transplanted, but does not make a good street tree.
Why do some birches and Wintergreen plants produce oil of wintergreen?
Did these birches obtain genes for making wintergreen from Wintergreen or vice versa?