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Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Family: Birch (Betulaceae)

Common Names: White birch, Canoe birch, Silver birch.

The paper birch gets its name from the showy white bark of the mature tree. As the trunk grows larger, the bark breaks and rolls back in thin paper curls. A forked tree with irregular, spreading crown; reaching heights of 40-80 and a diameter of 1-2 feet. Height growth ceases at about 60-70 years of age; few live more than 140 years.

With the more common Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Paper birch is among the woods marketed as birch. It has a white sapwood and light reddish brown heartwood. The wood is generally straight-grained with a fine uniform texture. Characterized by a plain, muted and often curly or wavy pattern. Birch wood is moderately dense, heavy, hard and strong. It has very good bending properties, with good crushing strength and shock resistance.

Generally easy to work with hand and machine tools, though boards with wild grain can cause grain tearout during machining operations. Glues well, takes stain very well, and nails and screws satisfactorily. Pre-boring is advised. It dries slowly, but once dried resists warping.

Used to make furniture, millwork and paneling, doors, flooring, kitchen and bath cabinets, turnings and wooden toys. After oak, probably the most popular hardwood veneer. Widely available as plywood. If a lumber store carries any hardwood plywood at all, it is likely to be birch. Less widely available as cut lumber.