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Home > Black Birch Tree
Betula lenta (sweet birch, also known as black birch, cherry birch, mahogany birch, or spice birch) is a species of birch native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southernmost Ontario, and south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 20 m (66 ft) tall with a trunk up to 60 cm (2.0 ft) diameter. In younger trees the bark is characteristic of most Birches, with smooth bark and distinct horizontal lenticels. It is sometimes mistakenly identified as a Cherry tree. In some older tree specimens the bark can (unlike most birches) develop vertical cracks into irregular scaly plates revealing rough darkish brown bark patterns. This, however, does not occur in all specimens. The twigs, when scraped, have a strong scent of wintergreen due to methyl salicylate, which is produced in the bark. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 in) long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit, maturing in fall, is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts. Seed production mainly occurs in trees that are between 40 and 70 years old, although light crops may occur as early as 20 years. The average lifespan of B. lenta is 100 years, with a maximum of 150.
Betula lenta was used commercially in the past for production of oil of wintergreen before modern industrial synthesis of the oil.