Plants and People Project

Birches - Betula

Native Americans used many parts of several species of birches for food and flavoring. How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts.

Indians also used the bark as a covering on and strucutral support for dwellings. They made water proof food containers from the bark which preserved the food.

Many parts of the birch were used to make medicines. Traditional medicine used birches to treat illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract including: diarrhea, dysentery and cholera. Indian Herbology of North America

Commonly recognized by a white bark with horizontal lines, the birch can actually have white, cream, yellow, brown and nearly black colored bark.

Beer was made from the sap of the birch and oil of wintergreen was distilled from the inner bark and twigs. The Herbalist

The barks of several varieties of birch trees were used to make dyeing to get light browns and blacks. Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing

White birch wood is used for ice cream sticks, tooth picks, bobbins, broom handles and for pulp. Audubon Field Guide to Trees of the Eastern Region

The bark of the white birch, also called canoe birch, has been used for centuries to make birch bark canoes.

Birch is a pioneer species, the shade intolerant tree is one of the first colonizers of fire disturbed or clear-cut lands.

It is a wonderful landscape tree with 4 seasons of interest. Birches are excellent focal points in a garden bed.


River Birch flowers in the spring. The male flowers are catkins.

Sweet Birch

Paper Birch

Angiosperm families off site

What tree is it? off site


Identification and other facts / PLANTS database / More info

River Birch Leaves

River Birch bark

Female flowers are cone shaped. The seeds are a favored food of goldfinches.

river birch female flower

Historic Tree Nursery

green right facing arrow. Next Plant green right facing arrow. Plants & People Index

green ivy rule

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Posted 8/5/05 Cindy O'Hora