Birch

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Many species;
see text and classification

Birch is the name of a certain tree of the genus Betula (pronounced /ˈbɛtjʊlə/ Bé-tu-la),[1] in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae.

Contents

Description

Birch species are generally small to medium-size trees or shrubs, mostly of temperate climates. The simple leaves may be toothed or pointed. The fruit is a small samara, although the wings may be obscure in some species. They differ from the alders (Alnus, other genus in the family) in that the female catkins are not woody and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds, unlike the woody cone-like female alder catkins.

The bark of all birches is characteristically marked with long horizontal lenticels, and often separates into thin papery plates, especially upon the Paper Birch. It is practically imperishable, due to the resinous oil which it contains. Its decided color gives the common names gray, white, black, silver and yellow birch to different species.

The buds form early and are full grown by midsummer, all are lateral, no terminal bud is formed; the branch is prolonged by the upper lateral bud. The wood of all the species is close-grained with satiny texture and capable of taking a fine polish; its fuel value is fair.

The leaves of the different species vary but little. All are alternate, doubly serrate, feather-veined, petiolate, and stipulate. They often appear in pairs, but these pairs are really borne on spur-like two-leaved lateral branchlets.[2]

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