Betula nigra

Common Names: Black birch, river birch, water birch
Category: Trees
Sub-category: Birches

It is a deciduous tree growing to 82 to 98 feet with a trunk 20 to 59 inches in diameter, often with multiple trunks. The bark is variable, usually dark gray-brown to pinkish-brown and scaly, but in some individuals, smooth and creamy pinkish-white, exfoliating in curly papery sheets. The twigs are glabrous or thinly hairy. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 1.5 to 3 inches long and 1.2 to 2.4 inches broad, with a serrated margin and five to twelve pairs of veins. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 1.2 to 2.4 inches long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit is unusual among birches in maturing in late spring; it is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.

While its native habitat is wet ground, it will grow on higher land, and its bark is quite distinctive, making it a favored ornamental tree for landscape use.

Edible Notes: Has a wintergreen flavor. The sap can be tapped in a similar fashion as maple and boiled-down to may syrup. Twigs can be used to make tea. Most birch beer and birch flavoring is now synthesized chemically. Look for birch beer or birch soda which is available in many supermarkets in Connecticut. Anything 'wintergreen' flavored, such as Lifesavers candy, will also taste very similar.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.