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Betula occidentalis - Hook.

Common Name Water Birch
Family Betulaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards The aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in birch tar are irritating to the skin. Do not use in patients with oedema or with poor kidney or heart functions [301]
Habitats Usually found on the banks of streams or moister spots in forests, it is also occasionally found in drier sites[60, 229].
Range Western and Central N. America.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Betula occidentalis Water Birch


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MPF
Betula occidentalis Water Birch
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

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Betula occidentalis is a deciduous Tree growing to 9 m (29ft 6in) at a fast rate.The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Betula beeniana, Betula elrodiana, Betula fontinalis, Betula obovata

Habitats

Woodland Garden Secondary;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Inner bark  Leaves  Sap
Edible Uses: Condiment

Young leaves and catkins - raw[172]. The buds and twigs are used as a flavouring in stews[172]. Inner bark - raw or cooked. Best in the spring[172]. Inner bark can be dried, ground into a meal and used as a thickener in soups, or be added to flour when making bread, biscuits etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply[K]. Sap - raw or cooked[172]. The sap can be used as a refreshing drink or beer, it can also be concentrated into a syrup by boiling off much of the water[K]. Harvested in spring, the flow is best on a sunny day following a frost. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- "To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr'd together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm'd. When it is sufficiently boil'd, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work...and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum."[269].

Medicinal Uses

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Abortifacient  Antirheumatic  Antiseborrheic  Astringent  Lithontripic  Salve  Sedative

The bark is antirheumatic, astringent, lithontripic, salve and sedative[172]. A decoction of the flowers and leaves has been used as an abortifacient[257]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Betula species for infections of the urinary tract, kidney and bladder stones, rheumatism (see [302] for critics of commission E).

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Other Uses

Containers  Hair  Waterproofing

An infusion of the plant is used as a hair conditioner and dandruff treatment[172]. The thin outer bark is waterproof and has been used as the cladding on canoes and dwellings, and also to make containers[257]. A brown dye is obtained from the inner bark[257]. Wood - close-grained, soft but strong[82]. Trees do not grow large enough to be of use for lumber, but the wood is used locally for fence posts[229] and is also a good fuel[172]. The bark can be used as a kindling[172].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in a well-drained loamy soil in a sunny position[11, 200]. Tolerates most soils including poor soils and heavy clays[200]. Fairly wind tolerant[200]. A fast-growing but short-lived tree[200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[50]. It hybridizes in the wild with B. papyrifera[11]. A good plant to grow near the compost heap, aiding the fermentation process[20]. Trees are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].

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Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame[78, 80, 113, 134]. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position[78, 80, 134]. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame[113, 134]. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help[134]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring - do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter[78, 80, 113, 134].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
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Alnus japonicaJapanese Alder01
Alnus jorullensisMexican alder, Evergreen Alder00
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Betula alleghaniensisYellow Birch, Swamp Birch32
Betula alnoides 21
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Betula glandulosaScrub Birch21
Betula kenaicaKenai Birch31
Betula lentaCherry Birch, Sweet birch, Black Birch, Cherry Birch33
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Betula nigraRiver Birch, Black Birch, Red Birch, Water Birch, River Birch32
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Betula pendulaSilver Birch, European white birch, Common Birch, Warty Birch, European White Birch33
Betula platyphyllaWhite Birch, Asian white birch,22
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Botanical References

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