Black Birch, New York  Diana Lee
  Oct 14, 2007

TOPIC: Black Birch 

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Mon, Oct 14 2007 6:42 pm
From: Diana Lee

I was hiking today in an area that's about 60 miles north of NYC.
The forest had an astounding number of black birch of all ages and
with many in the 75-100 year age group.
I am certainly NOT an expert on determining height, but I'm estimating
that on one hillside, there were ones in the 90-100 foot range. I
don't have any equipment to measure height - any suggestions? Also,
if I'm right on the black birch then their were oaks and maples in
that range too.

The area had been a farm at one time. It's a mixed forest of black
birch, oak, and maple, cherry with a few beech. I'm thinking that
perhaps when the dairy farm was abandoned, there was a mast year for
black birch? I have been all over this general area for the past,
hmmm, many years and have never seen a black birch dominant forest.
Any thoughts? BTW no yellow birch and only one white birch.

Diana Lee

== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Mon, Oct 15 2007 5:13 pm
From: "Edward Frank"


The first thing I would like to ask is what species of birch is the black
birch stand? There are a bunch of different birches that are called black
birch in different areas of the country. One area in western PA is the
Marion Brooks Natural Area in the Quehanna wild area - here is a link to
some photos: 

What is unusual in the area is a stand of almost pure white birch. There is
a description of the area here: 
"This natural area is best known for its immense stand of birches, the
largest in Pennsylvania. Repeated wild fires swept through this area in the
late 1800s, after extensive logging left behind highly flammable slash and
brush. The fires burned away the soil's organic matter, rendering it
unsuitable for regenerating many tree species. Birch, however, is a pioneer
species, thriving in such bare, mineral soil."

Perhaps a similar circumstance took place in the stand you saw, only is was
seeded by the species you encountered instead. Your idea is probably the
best option - when the farm was abandoned, it was seeded by birches.

Ed Frank

TOPIC: Black Birch.

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Thurs, Oct 18 2007 11:23 am
From: "Russ Carlson"

Black birch (Betula lenta) and yellow birch (B. allegheniensis) both
have high levels of methyl salicylate. The best time to taste it is in
the spring, when more sugars are present, avoiding the somewhat bitter
aftertaste. Don't chew the leaves--break off a fresh first-year twig and
suck on it, chewing lightly to bruise the bark. A friend from central
PA has made birch wine from the twigs.

The same with sassafras. Chew on a twig to get the spicy flavor. You
can experience the taste of sassafras in the leaves, and it will yield
mucilaginous feel in the mouth. It helps to defer the feeling of thirst
or 'dry mouth.'

If you are really desperate for a headache cure, chew some willow twigs,
if you can. They can reduce a headache, but they are quite bitter. The
root of salicylic acid (aspirin) comes from the Latin word 'Salix,' the
genus name for willow.

Just some fun trivia.
Russ Carlson
Bear, DE USA

== 6 of 6 ==
Date: Tues, Oct 16 2007 5:20 pm
From: neil


Sixty miles N of NYC is well within the range of black birch [sweet
birch down south; /Betula lenta/, botanically]. It reaches a northern
range margin up in the Champlain Valley of NY and eastern Adirondacks at
lower elevations. On the southern slopes of Prospect Mtn just outside of
Lake George, there is a sizable population of it, so much so that making
a tree ring chronology from that population was fairly easy.

Like all birches, this species establishes quite well in disturbed
habitats. Prospect Mtn has experienced a hotel fire on top of the mtn,
the construction of a cog railway up to that mtn top, a strong canopy
disturbance somewhere between the mid-1810s to early-1820s, fires [many
uphill fire scars on the trees at mid to lower elevations] and, perhaps,
grazing sometime in the past [in fact, Rattlesnake Cobble, on the
southeastern side of Prospect Mtn must be the location in James Fenimore
Cooper's Last of the Mohicans when they scouted a way to gain entry into
Fort William Henry. I bet it was 'used' during the Revolutionary War.].
Sorry, I digressed, ag abandonment is likely a good reason for black
birch being a forest dominant.

Hard to say why you are not seeing yellow or paper birch, except that
paper birch is really at its southern range limit in the mid to lower
Hudson Valley, especially at lower elevations [though I seem to recall
it being in Shushan, NY in the white spruce/boreal forest swamp]. I was
searching out natural populations of paper birch in the valley and
couldn't really find good ones south of Albany or so. I learned of one
population on a talus slope above the Hudson River below the palisade
cliffs near Tenafly, NJ. It was a protected population and could not be
studied; I believe that population was one of 2 or maybe 3 known paper
birch populations in New Jersey.

As for yellow birch, the valley is not a southern range limit, but it
was somewhat unusual to run into natural stands in the forests unless
one was at higher elevations or in wetlands. I recall running into a
nice population in Harriman State Park and thinking that it had been a
long time [much time in the forests of the HV] since I had last seen
this species. That population was in a wetland location. I just don't
think this species competes well in the lower elevations of the HV
unless it has its toes wet.