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Sweet Birch

Betula lenta L.

Sweet birch
Figure 102.—Sweet birch (Betula lenta)
Other common names.—Black birch, cherry birch, spice birch, river birch, mahogany birch, mountain-mahogany.

Habitat and range.—This tree occurs in rich woodlands from Newfoundland to Ontario and south to Florida and Tennessee.

Description.—The sweet-birch tree attains a height of from 50 to 80 feet. The bark of the younger branches is a shiny, reddish brown, while that of the large trunks is very thick and rough. The bark and leaves of the sweet birch are sweet and aromatic. The tree bears both male and female flowers in catkins which develop with or before the leaves about April or May.

Part used.—The bark, which contains a volatile oil similar to wintergreen oil, is used for medicinal and flavoring purposes. The distillation of birch oil is a small industry in the Eastern States.*

*Information on the extraction of volatile oils from plants is contained in the following publication: Sievers, A.F. Methods of extracting volatile oils from plant material and the production of such oils in the United States. U.S. Dept. Agr. Tech. Bul. 16, 36 p. illus. 1928.

Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update Friday, April 3, 1998 by aw