Landowner Fact Sheets

sweet birch Betula lenta play

Sweet birch, also known as black birch, is a deciduous tree of northeastern forests primarily known for the wintergreen aroma that comes from the leaves and twigs when they are crushed or torn.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Black birch is intolerant of shade and can be regenerated by clearcutting or large group selection methods.

Sweet birch will grow on a wide variety of soils, including rocky soils and on boulders.


A medium sized tree with a single straight trunk reaching up to 60 feet tall.

Timber Value
Sweet birch is used similarly to yellow birch. It is often used as paper pulp to mixed with other wood pulps. Other uses include lumber, veneer, furniture, cabinets, woodenware, boxes, handles.

Wildlife Value
Black birch is browsed by deer. The seeds, buds, and catkins are eaten by a variety of birds and small mammals.
Attracts deer, porcupines, rabbits, many species of birds

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Oil of wintergreen may be extracted from the twigs and bark of sweet birch. In the past, sweet birch was the primary source of this compound. The inner bark can be used as an emergency survival food. Trees can be tapped in spring and the sap fermented to make birch beer. Early settlers fancied the supple spring growth of sweet birch for use "flossing" between sporadic remnants of teeth. Virginia roundleaf birch (Betula uber) is a closely related species that is nearly extinct in the wild. All characteristics are similar, except leaves are nearly round.

Latin Meaning
Betula: Latin (pitch - bitumen is distilled from the bark or Sanskrit "bhurja" (to shine" (bark))) / lenta: tough but pliable (twigs or ability to grow in rocky areas) or sweet

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.