Black Birch Betula lenta
Family: Betulaceae (Birch)
Branching: Alternate
Other names: Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch

This is a rare tree in Canada and grows in few locations in Southern Ontario.  It closely resembles Yellow Birch and the twigs of both species smell of wintergreen when broken (the only trees that do so).  Unlike Yellow Birch, though, its bark does not peel much as it ages.  Therefore mature trees are easily distinguished (saplings in the winter are not noticeably different).  However when mature it can resemble the introduced Black Alder, as they both retain obvious horizontal slits as mature trees.  If a twig can be reached, the buds will distinguish them.  

Black Birch winter twig.  

Closeup of a lateral bud

Another view of the winter twig

Seed catkins of Yellow Birch and Black Birch resemble cones and point up

The horizontal slits common to all Birches.  Unlike the other birches,
Black Birch bark hardly peels at all, even when fully mature.

Middle-aged bark

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copyright © 2008 Josh Sayers
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