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General Forestry => Ask The Forester => Topic started by: wisconsitom on February 28, 2019, 09:47:08 AM

Title: Yellow birch
Post by: wisconsitom on February 28, 2019, 09:47:08 AM
Who else likes yellow birch?  One of my favorite hardwoods.  And where have you seen your best stands of this species?  For me, it is the big swath of upland northern hardwood/mixed forest that begins roughly at Wausau WI and then extends due north into the western/central UP of Michigan....the area around Watersmeet/Paulding/Bond Flowage.  Many a good stand featuring very nice yellow birch in that corridor.

I understand there is a forest type in Quebec-yellow birch/balsam fir.  While those two species certainly can occur together in the region I describe above, it is much more of the sugar maple/hemlock type of association here in WI and Upper Michigan that I tend to see.

Thanks,
tom
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: mitchstockdale on February 28, 2019, 12:16:08 PM
I bought a piece of property a couple years ago with the majority of tree cover being yellow birch.  I had not had much experience with yellow birch before... they are really pretty trees in the summer.  They also make really good and clean firewood.
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: moodnacreek on February 28, 2019, 12:45:11 PM
For high grade lumber, yellow birch is an aristocrat, so much like cherry but without the red color. Like elm lumber many people are not familiar with this wood.
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: petefrom bearswamp on March 01, 2019, 09:02:12 AM
More of an adk species than around my parts.
A nice tree none the less 
One mill I dealt with sold some for airplane propellers.
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: wisconsitom on March 01, 2019, 12:30:12 PM
I also love the common associates of this tree's forest cover type....which as I said is primarily sugar maple/hemlock but add beech, northern red oak, various aspens, a few white pines, some upland white-cedar......yeah....good stuff.

tom
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: Ron Scott on March 03, 2019, 08:48:06 PM
A favorite of mine especially in the Ottawa National Forest area of Michigan's western UP in much of the northern hardwood areas that you mentioned. A great lumber species of the northern hardwoods ecosystem.

We don't have much of any volume or quality here in northwestern lower Michigan.
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: thecfarm on March 03, 2019, 08:58:51 PM
I don't have much yellow birch on my land. Mostly one here and there. The only place that I have more than 2-3 in about 100 fott area is around the spring.
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: wisconsitom on March 04, 2019, 08:37:03 AM
Ron Scott...yes, exactly...those great N. hardwood stands in the Ottawa!  Best yellow birch area I've seen.

tom
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: SwampDonkey on March 15, 2019, 10:50:14 AM
On a traditional firewood lot. Also huge fire born aspen near by.
(http://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_Tobique-YB.jpg)

On my woodlot, but I had bigger aspen standing beside it, they got old and died off. This is ~26" and 77'. The aspen were 26-38" type of thing and 10 feet taller on the largest ones. I had a third party measure this birch for a book on great trees. They found others way bigger, like 38-40" if I recall. I said look over there, pointing my arm (cousin's lot next door), an aspen 12" fatter and taller. They were born after fire around 1905. :D

(http://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_yellowbirch-wlt-022.jpg)

(http://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_yellowbirch-wlt-023.jpg)

Used to see white birch in hardwood like these as well 30 years ago. They would leave them stand after harvesting everything else and they would just die in 3 years and fall down. Worm food.

Plantation, collected seed during a harvest back around 1999 had them nursery grown. This photo is a bit dated, a lot taller now.

(http://forestryforum.com/gallery/albums/userpics/11009/SD_yellow_birch_Pl1.jpg)

That's not the correct timestamp, it's probably around 2009. Darn, planted them nearly 20 years ago. I can walk in under them like park land since the lower limbs pruned themselves up.
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: wisconsitom on March 15, 2019, 12:17:09 PM
I was surprised to recently learn that there are two white-barked birch species here in Wisconsin, the obvious paper birch-Betula papyrifera...and heartleaf paper birch-Betula cordifolia.  Some references treat B. cordifolia as a variety of papyrifera...but more recent guidelines suggest they are completely separate species.  Note, I'm not talking about river birch here, although some specimens can resemble a paper birch superficially.  No, of the true white-barked birches, there are two, not one species across the northern US and adjacent Canada.

Now...who thinks that paper birch and yellow birch can hybridize?  I say yes, they can....some others state that there is no such animal.  In my cedar swamp are a number of birches that defy categorization;  They have bark that is intermediate between that of paper birch and that of yellow birch.  Meanwhile, right nearby are birches that appear to be stock paper birch.....with no indication of hybridization.  

Yellow birch is the main hardwood type that I will be introducing into my plantation area...as it gets thinned and ages.....to gradually convert to forest proper.  We will have culled some material out of this stand area....but legacy trees will be left behind.  This will be the nursery for the forest that may occupy the site in 100 years.  

Or...a future owner may get dollar signs in his/her eyes and reconvert back to agriculture!  A lot of that was going on in my sector a couple years ago when commodity prices temporarily surged.  Then, by the time these geniuses get their land cleared, crop planted and harvested, they end up the year by looking at each other and wondering why everyone is overproducing!

tom
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: SwampDonkey on March 15, 2019, 01:09:04 PM
Really old birch, white or yellow get platey bark. I forget which book it is, but they talk of the big white birch die off out east here. It was in the 40's. My grandfather said it was not safe to be in the woods under those monsters. :D He was a guide outfitter and in those days it was by foot or canoe. None of this 4 wheeler or windshield hunting. ;)

We have a secondary white birch here called grey birch. Only gets to 8" diameter and that is the end of it. Betula populifolia. A darn weed. I have maybe 2 on the whole woodlot, wirey branches, triangular leaves, warty branches, solitary catkins. Grows on wet land. Not even considered a crop tree when spacing with clearing saws.

I have seen mainly two variations in bark, yellow or silver. They've been proven to be the same. You see a lot of that on a veneer yard. Same goes for white ash although some is probably green ash mixed in.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_populifolia)

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betula_populifolia)
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: Clark on March 16, 2019, 12:39:19 PM
WITom - I have some doubts about the validity of two different species of white birch here. Sometimes the lumpers win, other times the splitters. The name “heart-leaved birch” makes me think the whole thing is based more on emotion than relevant facts. If they look slightly different but grow in the same sites and produce the same product, are they different?

While paper and yellow birch can look very similar at times, it seems that paper birch will more often take on darker bark characteristics of yellow in certain situations. With that, the Silvics manual states there is hybrid between the two...Betua papyrifera var. cordifolia...which sounds similar to the “heart-leaved birch”. 

So there is a hybrid, there could be a separate species but I haven’t seen enough evidence in the field to indicate any action is needed. An interesting side note.

Clark
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: SwampDonkey on March 16, 2019, 12:47:18 PM
White (paper) and grey birch (populifolia) will hybridize. Some sites are quite confusing, regular white birch leaves and a solitary catkin and may or may not be worty. Every DNR office is different to, some let it pass for crop trees and others are steadfast against it. :D
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: wisconsitom on March 18, 2019, 08:50:55 AM
No populifolia here in western Great Lakes.  No papyrifer/populifolia hybrids around these parts.

  The name 'cordifolia' is widely used throughout horticultural nomenclature and has nothing whatever to do with emotions.  Cordifolia simply means heart-shaped.  There must be one thousand specific epithets (for 1000 species of plants) with the word "cordifolia" in them.

I have wondered if I'm looking at hybrids between one or the other paper birch species....and yellow birch, when I see those silvery-barked trees.  That is in fact exactly what I had been thinking....many years back.  The B. cordifolia info is more recent.

I care not if someone is a "lumper" of a "splitter".  I'm just interested in the plants we see around us every day (and mostly ignore).

Final comment on grey birch;  In 1980s (I think), excellent University of Wisconsin plantsman Ed Hasselkus (retired) introduced the grey birch cultivar "Whitespire".  Now, I appreciate Ed's contributions to the industry but this tree is just a dog.....and its nice-sounding name has led to its being planted far and wide.  Junk tree, utterly inferior to just regular paper birch.  I hate it.  Just like I hate how every landscape nursery, especially the "progressive" ones that are pushing "native" vegetation" in our area all seem to have river birch as a "native plant" on their lists, regardless of where in the state they are located.  I have offered one large, well-known nursery's propagator the challenge:  If river birch is native to eastern Wisconsin (where this nursery is located), please show me one.....yes one, wild river birch east of the banks of the Wisconsin river.....please!  They will not find one because there aren't any.

But back to paper birches and yellow birches....I do believe they can hybridize.  Maybe that is the source of B. cordifolia, although that is not how that species was portrayed in the initial paper I saw.

tom
Title: Re: Yellow birch
Post by: SwampDonkey on March 18, 2019, 11:25:45 AM
Yes, grey birch has a small range. It does grow at the southern tip of Lake MI in northern Indiana and Madison Co, Va but the range is mostly Nfld, NB, NS, south shore of St Lawrence and south along New England ,NY, PA and DE.

Yeah grey birch isn't usually a crop tree here, right up there with pin cherry. I do know some have landed in the pulpwood piles over the years. So take it or leave it. :)