Yellow Birch is a tree found extensively in New England, southern Canada, the upper Midwest, and Appalachia as a co-dominant tree in forests where Eastern Hemlock, White Pine, Sugar Maple, American Beech, and other hardwoods are the climax species. In Ohio, it is found abundantly in the northeastern quarter of the state, and locally elsewhere in the eastern half of the state, especially along the western edge of the Allegheny Plateau (hence the scientific name). It is prized for its heavy, hard wood (used as a finish wood or veneer in furniture, cabinetry, doors, and floors, and often stained or varnished), and its excellent yellow fall color.
Yellow Birch is named for its silvery-yellow, thinly peeling bark that develops with maturity, and was formerly classified as Betula lutea. When found in the open, it may reach 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide as an individual tree. As a member of the Birch Family, it is related to the Alders, Hornbeams, Filberts, and Hophornbeams, in addition to other Birches. It is often found growing alongside Black Birch (with which it is often confused) in forests, and these two species are among the first to colonize fields and roadway cuts.
Planting Requirements - Yellow Birch prefers moist, rich, deep, well-drained, acidic soils in sites that have relatively cool summers. It tolerates drier soils, and somewhat tolerates soils of alkaline or neutral pH, but does not compete well in the wild or perform well in urban landscapes under these conditions. It grows in full sun to partial shade, and is found in zones 3 to 7.
Potential Problems - Yellow Birch, like many Birches, has many pathogens (leaf diseases, trunk rot, bark cankers) and pests (bronze birch borer being the worst) which can cause either cosmetic (non-lethal) or lethal injury to the tree. The most common cases where this occurs is when the tree is grown outside of its natural range, where it undergoes environmental stresses (high pH soils, dry soils, hot summers, and mild winters) that make it susceptible to biological infections or infestations.