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Yellow Birch

June 10, 2010

Location: Eastern United States and Canada

On Sunday, I hiked to the top of a small hillock near my home in Hanover, New Hampshire. I noticed an abundance of Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) in the mix of trees along the short quarter-mile trek. Common in the northeast below an elevation of 2,500 feet, Yellow Birch is sometimes confused with its hardier, faster-growing cousin, Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), so worth a blog entry for those interested in keeping their trees straight. Yellow Birch can be a heck of a large hardwood by east coast standards. Some live over 300 years! If you buy something is made of birch, whether it’s furniture, flooring or toothpicks, it’s likely Yellow Birch. These pretty trees have a golden bark that flakes off rather than peels in big sheets for which Paper Birch trees are famous. Deer, rabbits, beaver and Ruffed grouse depend on it for sustenance. The provincial tree of Quebec, Yellow Birch are native to the east and can be found from Nova Scotia to northern Georgia, and as far west as Minnesota. Next time you see a Yellow Birch tree, scratch a twig. It smells like wintergreen!

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