Short, slender branches rise to a narrow pyramidal crown on a young tree; they become horizontal, often pendulous, on an older tree. For several years after a tree has been harvested the tree's bark will be black. Pale- to red-brown birchwood is used for flooring, furniture, cabinetry, interior finishing, vehicle parts, plywood, pulp, and turnery. Bark can be harvested from any birch tree (at the right time of year). The best time for collection is spring or early summer, as the bark is of better quality and most easily removed. Gray birch, paper birch, river birch, sweet birch, yellow birch, and white birch are the best known; white birch is usually called silver birch in England, but the latter name is also sometimes given to paper birch and to yellow birch. Most require moist, sandy, and loamy soil; they are usually propagated by seeding or grafting. The name bog birch is applied to a species of buckthorn, as well as to B. glandulosa. Both species have almost circular leaves, are food sources for birds and grazing animals, and may be planted as ornamentals. Many ornamental varieties are cultivated for their leaf colour, leaf shape, or growth habit. Birches were among the first trees to become established after the glaciers receded. Removing the inner layer prevents the flow of sap, which will eventually kill the tree if enough bark is removed. This page was last edited on 5 November 2020, at 10:06. Birch bark also contains substances of medicinal and chemical interest. The thin, water-impervious bark provided roofing, canoes, and shoes for North American Indians and early settlers. Short, slender branches rise to a narrow pyramidal crown on a young tree; they become horizontal, often pendulous, on an older tree. It has been suggested that this article be. Normally the proportion of xylem to leaves supplied by that xylem is greater in plants growing in dry habitats than in plants found in wet ones and may be as much as 700 times greater in certain desert plants than…, The birch zone extends from 3,000 to 3,900 feet (900 to 1,200 metres) above sea level, above which there is a willow belt that includes dwarf birch.…, In birches, for example, the leaf perceives the day-length “signal” and transmits inhibitory materials to the apex, thus bringing growth to a stop and inducing the formation of a resting bud. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. This article was most recently revised and updated by, USDA Forest Service - How to Grow and Maintain a Healthy Birch Tree, The Spruce - Meet 12 Species and Cultivars of Birch Trees, birch - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11), birch - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). Instead, it can be removed fairly easily from the trunk or branches of dead wood, by cutting a slit lengthwise through the bark and pulling or prying it away from the wood. They are usually bright green, turning yellow in autumn. Some of those products (such as betulin) also have fungicidal properties that help preserve bark artifacts, as well as food preserved in bark containers. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The best time for collection is spring or early summer, as the bark is of better quality and most easily removed. However, there is a danger that the tree will be injured in the harvesting process and many people do not like the look of a tree that has been harvested. The strong and water-resistant cardboard-like bark can be easily cut, bent, and sewn, which has made it a valuable building, crafting, and writing material, since pre-historic times. A few natural hybrids between trees and shrubs of the genus Betula are cultivated as ornamentals in Europe and North America. Water birch (B. occidentalis; B. fontinalis of some authorities), a shrubby tree native to moist sites along the western coast of North America, has nonpeeling, dark-red bark; it grows in clusters, with all stems rising from a common root system. Birch bark knife handles are popular tools to be made currently. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd, 2002. p. 152. Other uses include: Birch bark also makes an outstanding tinder, as the inner layers will stay dry even through heavy rainstorms. Browse 1,477 birch tree bark stock photos and images available, or search for birch trees or silver birch tree to find more great stock photos and pictures. To prevent it from rolling up during storage, the bark should be spread open and kept pressed flat. The egg-shaped or triangular, usually pointed leaves have toothed margins; they are alternately arranged on the branchlets. Black Friday Sale! Birch oil and birch beer made from sap are obtained from the trees. Containers such as wrappings, bags, baskets, boxes, or quivers were made by most societies well before pottery was invented[citation needed]. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Removing birch bark from live trees is harmful to tree health and should be avoided. Fresh bark can be worked as is; bark that has dried up (before or after collection) should be softened by steaming, by soaking in warm water, or over a fire. Silver Birch is widespread in Britain, Down Birch is more common in the Scottish Highlands and the others are introduced species or varieties planted in parks, gardens or urban settings for their striking bark. Updates? The peeling white bark blends well with winter's snowy surroundings. For sharp bending, the fold should be scored (scratched) first with a blunt stylus. Here are six species or varieties. Even today, birch bark remains a popular type of wood for various handicrafts and arts. The similar Japanese cherry birch (B. grossa) also produces useful timber. Removing birch bark from live trees is harmful to tree health and should be avoided. Birch bark was a valuable construction material in any part of the world where birch trees were available. Several Chinese birches and the Japanese white birch (B. platyphylla japonica) are sometimes used ornamentally. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Save 50% off a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. The dormancy hormone, abscisic acid, may be concerned in this response and also in stomata…. Birch bark can be cut with a sharp knife, and worked like cardboard. Explore {{searchView.params.phrase}} by color family {{familyColorButtonText(}} It is sometimes called red birch, black birch, or mountain birch. …with slender branches (such as birches), the reverse is true. Learn how and when to remove this template message, "Experimental methods for the Palaeolithic dry distillation of birch bark: implications for the origin and development of Neandertal adhesive technology", "Birch tar extraction does not prove Neanderthal behavioral complexity", Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Digital Image Collection, Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: These Canoes Carry Culture,, Articles lacking in-text citations from October 2012, Articles with unsourced statements from July 2008, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, In Scandinavia and Finland, it was used as the substratum of. Birch Bark and Its many Uses. Bog birch (B. glandulosa) of North America, also called tundra dwarf birch or resin birch, and dwarf birch, or dwarf Arctic birch (B. nana), native to most far northern areas of the world, are small alpine and tundra shrubs commonly known as ground birch. Omissions? Hardy, quick growing, and relatively immune to disease and insect attack, they are valuable in reforestation, erosion control, and as protective cover, or nurse trees, for development of more permanent plants. Historical Atlas of Canada: Canada's History Illustrated with Original Maps. On older trunks the thick, deeply furrowed bark breaks into irregular plates. A birch has smooth, resinous, varicoloured or white bark, marked by horizontal pores (lenticels), which usually peels horizontally in thin sheets, especially on young trees. Birch trees can be identified by their distinctive bark.