The Tasmanian Arboretum

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northern Birch

Birches occur throughout forests in the colder areas of Europe, Asia and North America. They are renowned among gardeners for their fast growth, ornamental bark and autumn colours.

Birches also have many other uses, for example, the wood of the yellow birch [Betula alleghaniensis] from Eastern North America is heavy, strong, close-grained, eventextured, and shows a wide colour variation, from reddish brown to creamy white. It is used for furniture, cabinetry, charcoal, pulp, interior finish, veneer, tool handles, boxes and interior doors.

In their natural environment deer consume large numbers of yellow birch seedlings in summer, while the seeds are eaten by various bird species. Red squirrels cut and store mature catkins and eat the seeds. The sap of yellow birch can be tapped for use as an edible syrup, and tea can be made from the twigs and/or inner bark.

Among First Nations people in North America, bark containers were used to collect, store and cook food. Birch bark was readily available, waterproof, pliable, and rot resistant.

The most useful bark in North America comes from paper birch [Betula papyrifera], sometimes called white birch, or canoe birch. First Nations people used the bark to make baskets, storage containers, mats, baby carriers, moose and bird calls, torches, and, of course, canoes. The bark from the sweet or black birch [Betula lenta] is a source of wintergreen, and has also been used to make beer, and a herbal tea.

At our Arboretum the birch collection is a theme through each of the five Geographic Collections. The intersection of three collections around the north of Founders Lake has allowed us to display a number of birches in a relatively small area.

»Click here to access a map with the locations of the collection highlighted.

»To view the full interpretive panel in PDF format, click here.

Leaves and bark

The leaves and bark shown below are samples of birches from the US, Europe and Asia and show the similarity between them.

Distribution

The map shows the global distribution of Birch species.

B papyrifera

Paper Birch
Betula papyrifera
USA

B pubescens

White Birch
Betula pubescens
Europe

B utilis

Himalayan Birch
Betula utilis
Asia

distribution