Black Birch
(Betula lenta)
Birch Branch
A Pictorial Portrait
Growing in forests throughout eastern North America, this common native tree's cambium (the green layer under the bark) contains the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory oil of wintergreen, which you can smell if you scratch-and-sniff the twigs or bark.

Chew on the delicious twigs like chewing gum (this also alleviates bad breath), or steep them for tea. A strong cup may be the equivalent of 1/4 to 1/2 an aspirin.

Black Birch
Black Birch Twig

Note the alternate (unpaired), elliptical, short-stalked, finely toothed (serrated), pointed leaves, the slender twigs, and short, pointed leaf buds.

Pen-and-ink drawing by "Wildman"

Black Birch Leaves and Twig
Black Birch Leaves and Twigs

Note the prominent, evenly spaced veins forming the letter "V" on the leaves.

Black Birch Catkins
Black Birch Catkins

Male catkins appear in the winter, before the leaves develop, and release pollen into the wind in early spring.

Pen-and-ink drawing by "Wildman"

Black Birch Bark
Black Birch Bark

The smooth, grey bark is puncuated by horizontal lenticels, which let the tree breath. Unlike cherry trees, the bark isn't riddled with cracks.

Black Cherry Leaf Underside
Black Birch with Female Flowers

The female flowers appear in early spring.

Violet Brill Chewing Black Birch Twig
Violet Brill Chewing on a Black Birch Twig

Chewing on the twigs tastes great, and it reduces the pain of teething.

Watch the Black Birch video on Medicine Hunters
with Chris Kilham
Fox TV
Published November 10, 2011