Tree of the Month: Yellow Birch

Scientific Name: Betula alleghaniensis

Growing up to 25 metres tall and with a diameter of 60 centimeters, the Yellow Birch is Ontario’s largest native birch tree. The tree gets its name from its bark, which is golden in colour and has a shaggy, peeling texture. Its leaves are a yellow-green, between eight and eleven centimeters long, and it has green and brown cylindrical flowers called “catkins.”

This tree lives to 150 years, and grows slowly. Because it prefers rich moist soil, the Yellow Birch is not a good landscaping tree. These shade tolerant trees are often found among beech, basswood, balsam firs, and white pines, in Southern and Central Ontario, as well as some areas in Northern Ontario.

Yellow Birch saplings and seeds are a popular food source for animals and birds, particularly the yellow-bellied sapsucker. Humans can also enjoy Yellow Birch; the sap can be boiled to make syrup, or fermented into beer, and the twigs and leaves can be used to make a wintergreen-flavoured tea.