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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

(Betula alleghaniensis Britton)


Yellow birch is confined to cool, high mountain slopes, generally at elevations above 3,000 feet. It grows at slightly higher elevations than black birch, from which Yellow birch usually can be distinguished by its bark.

Yellow birch is named for its bark, which has a yellowish-bronze color and peels into long, ragged, horizontal strips. The bark of mature trees breaks up into reddish-brown plates.

Leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, pointed, sharply toothed and are a roughly oblong-oval shape. The fruit is an oval, erect strobile 1 to 1 1/2 inches long and about 3/4 inch thick.

The twigs are light brown and shiny, They are slightly aromatic, but less so than those of the black birch. The pungent smell of wintergreen associated with crushed twigs is a simple way to identify both yellow and sweet birch. Yellow birch averages 60 to 80 feet in height and, on better sites, may grow to 100 feet tall and I to 3 feet in diameter.

The light brown wood is heavy, strong, hard and close-grained. It is used for flooring, woodenware, furniture and veneers and is considered superior to the black birch. The tree furnishes browse for deer, and its buds and catkins (scaly, bracted spikes of usually unisexual flowers) are food for grouse and other wildlife.

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