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Birch tree appearance wood uses and lumber

Birch trees are very common throughout the northern temperate zones of the world. The scientific name of birch is betula pendula and is part of the betulaceae family. Birch is a real pioneer among trees. After the last ice age it was one of the first tree species that successfully expanded world wide. Birch trees are also known for their beautiful silver white bark. Birch wood has nice looking colors and is often used as veneer. It lacks toughness and is not durable but the nice colorations will compensate!

birch tree widely spread deciduous trees

Birch tree, leaf and fruit description

birch leaves and catkinsThe birch tree can grow to heights up to 65 feet or 20 meters. The tree is classed deciduous and won't have leaves from late autumn till early spring. Birch leaves are arranged alternate and ovate to triangular shaped with toothed edges. They can reach lengths up to 2.5 inches or 6 cm.

Birch leaves are shiny grass green on the sun side and lighter on the other side. Young birch leaves have small hairs on the edge of the leaflets.

In autumn the leaves turn dark yellow and fall too the ground. Catkins are the flowers, and in a later stage the seeds of birch trees. The catkins appear before the leaves and hang on the tree branches well into summer.


Birch tree bark and trunk

Young birch trees have smooth pale yellow brown bark. When the tree gets older the bark gets whiter with rough dark cracks and a bit peeling. Specific mushroom species grow on birch bark of older or dead trees. Birch bark also has medical uses and can cure a wide range of conditions. Birch trees are short living and trunks of older trees often start to rot. The trunk of older trees can have a diameter up to 31 inch or 0.8 meters


Birch wood properties and durability

Fresh birch heartwood has a creamy white to pale brown color. The sapwood is nearly white but exposure to sunlight gives the wood a darker color, more in line with the heartwood. Birch wood is known for its fine even texture, moderate strength and shock resistance properties. The average dried weight of the wood at a moisture content of 12% is 650 kg per cubic meter. The durability of birch wood is classed as V low durability.


Birch wood working tips and uses

birch wood is easy to handle and has many usesBirch wood is very popular among carpenters and the wood work industry. Birch wood nails, screws, glues, and works well both by hand or machine.

Birch wood is soft and is also very suitable for hand carving and sculptures. Pre drilling is advised when screws or nails are used because the lumber can split. Birch wood is used in a wide range of products like:

  • furniture,
  • flooring,
  • turned articles,
  • toys,
  • veneer
  • firewood
  • besoms

More birch pictures!