Betula lenta L. - Sweet Birch


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Betula lenta - (image 1 of 5)



Family: Betulaceae


Moist woods




Southern ME and southern Quebec, to DE, OH, and KY, and in mountains to GA and AL.


Deciduous tree to 25 m tall; bark smooth, red-brown when young with prominent lenticels, becoming rough with large, thickened, plates on large specimens. Leaves ovate or ovate-oblong, to 10 cm, acute or short-acuminate, very finely and sharply serrate, rounded to subcordate at the base, appressed-villous on the veins below, often in pairs on spur branches; lateral veins in 9-12 pairs, impressed above.  Fruiting catkins sessile or subsessile, short-cylindric to ellipsoid or slightly obovoid, to 3 cm; scales glabrous, to 5-7 mm long, the middle lobe somewhat prolonged, and the lateral lobes oblong and divergent or ascending.


Flowers April

Wetland Indicator: Facultative Upland

Similar to Yellow Birch, which has pubescent (rather than glabrous) pistillate scales that are 6-13 mm long. Like Yellow Birch, the twigs of Sweet Birch have a wintergreen odor when broken but have a sweeter taste. Sometimes called Cherry Birch because the dark, smooth bark of young trees resembles some species of Cherry.


Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Second Ed.
The New York Botanical Garden. Bronx, NY


Swink, F. and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region.
Indiana Academy of Science. The Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.


USDA, NRCS. 2002. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA




Michael Hough 2009