Betula lenta
Common name: 
Sweet Birch
Cherry Birch
Pronunciation: 
BET-u-la LEN-ta
Family: 
Betulaceae
Genus: 
Type: 
Broadleaf
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
No
  • Broadleaf deciduous tree, to 75 ft (23 m) tall in its habitat, but probably only 50 ft (15 m) in cultivation, with a spread of about 40 ft (13 m), pyramidal and dense when young, when mature rounded and irregular.  Bark light reddish brown to almost black, strong wintergreen odor or flavor [origin of the sweet birch common name}, when older, brown-black in large, irregular, scaly plates.  Leaves simple, alternate, ovate to ovate-oblong, 5-15 cm long and 4-9 cm wide, tip acuminate, base mostly cordate (heart-shaped), margin serrate, often doubly so, upper surface glossy dark green, paler green below and pubescent on veins, 10-13 pairs of veins; petiole 1.3-2.5 cm long.  Male catkins in winter 5-7.5 cm long, then pendulous and expanded in summer to 7.5-10 cm long, female flowers in upright catkins 1.7-2.5 cm long.
  • Sun.  Best in moist well-drained soil, but tolerates drier soils than most birches.   Some think its yellow-gold leaf color in fall make if the best birch for color in autumn.   Reportedly resistant to the bronze birch borer and the birch leaf miner.
  • Hardy to USDA Zone (3) 4    Native range extends from Maine to southern Ontario, south to Ohio and Alabama.
  • Sweet Birch: the wintergreen odor or flavor is apparently the origin of the sweet birch common name.
  • Cherry Birch: from its cherry-like bark, i.e., dark reddish brown with prominent horizontal lenticels, similar to the bark of the wild black cherry, Prunus serotina.
  • lenta: tough but pliant.
  • Closely related to and resembles B. alleghaniensis , Yellow Birch, some contrasting features are given below (Farrar, 1995).  I don't know how accurate or useful they are; any comments?:
     
     Characteristic  B. alleghaniensis  Yellow Birch  B. lenta   Sweet Birch
      Height    frequently over 65 ft (20 m)    seldom reaching 65ft (20 m)
      Buds    mostly hairy, pressed against twig    mostly hairless, diverging from twig
      Cone scales    5-7 mm long, hairy    6-12 mm long, hairless
      Leaves and young twigs
      when chewed
       moderate wintergreen flavor    strong wintergreen flavor
      Bark    reddish brown, becoming dull yellow    dark cherry red to blackish, then grayish

 

Click image to enlarge
  • plant habit, summer

    plant habit, summer

  • leaf

    leaf

  • branch and trunk, bark

    branch and trunk, bark

  • plant habit and trunk, fall

    plant habit and trunk, fall