Friday, February 13, 2009

100 Species Challenge -- #37

Specimen # 37

Paper Birch
AKA Canoe Birch

Betula papyrifera

This specimen is in our backyard. On our walk to the park this week, and having previously read the Discover Nature in Winter chapter on trees, we noticed differences between gray and paper birches for the first time in our lives. If you click on the photo, you will see that the bark of our tree is all different colors of white because it is always peeling. You may even see some bark scrolling away near the branches. In the summer, you will see bark shaded orange and peach.

In Clive Library Book Sale find, _Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada_ by William M. Harlow, I learned that the paper birch is used for many things: tinder (we experienced this during our stay in the Northwoods last summer) from fallen branches and natural "shed," baskets (seen at Indian Creek Nature Center near Cedar Rapids) and other bark utensils, 'writing paper' (the underside of the bark), a pioneer covering for lean-tos and underlayment for shingles, as well as emergency food. The inner bark is pounded into flour, and syrup can be made from the sap -- it makes " a pleasant cooling drink."

From the Lawlor book and our Northwoods stay this past summer, we know that paper birhces are often the first trees to grow in disturbed soil (i.e., due to fire or clearing for contruction). I'll post about the gray birch once I snap a photo.

No comments: