Yellow Birch

February 20, 2016

One of my favorite trees in the winter is Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). The bark is not white like white birch or yellow like the name would suggest, but cherry like that exfoliates with copper and gray with white lentils (see picture). The bark becomes brown and plated as it gets older.

I have three of these planted in the back yard that have been there for 25 years. One of them is declining do to shade, and the other two are going great. They get half day sun and are protected from the west, north and south winds. If we have a serious drought of four weeks or more, I do water them.

The twigs have a great winter green flavor, and I love breaking one off when I pass to chew on it. The trees are lucky that they’re more than 100 feet from the back door or there might not be any limbs left on them. The Native Americans used the newer twigs to brush their teeth. It also turns out that the sap has certain antibacterial qualities.

The best place to see these plants in the wild is to go to The National Lake Shore and visit Cowles Bog near Dune Acres. There are a number of specimens to see along with many other species that are not commonly seen in the Chicagoland area. Cowles Bog is worth a visit anytime of year, but in spring the bog comes alive with flowers budding trees giving a prehistoric feel.