Identifying Birch in Lumber Form

      How to see through the various brand names applied to birch lumber. January 20, 2010

Question
What is Canadian birch, really? I wish these flooring people would call their product by its proper name (although this one may be). This is the third specie search I've done in 2 weeks.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor H:
As far as I know there is white birch and yellow birch. Some folks will say there is a red birch. But that is just the heartwood of yellow birch. I would say Canadian birch is just that, birch from Canada. Most birch is yellow birch. White birch is normally stated as such.



From Professor Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying Forum technical advisor:
There are three commercially important birch species: yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis, which means “from the Alleghenies”), paper (or white) birch (B. papyrifera, meaning paper-bearing) and sweet birch (B. lenta meaning flexible, referring to the twigs). Properties (especially strength) vary considerably among these three species, with white birch being the lightest weight (15% lighter) and weakest. In fact, the weight of lumber is often the key to separation of paper birch from the other species. A sawmill in the birch region may also encounter small quantities of river birch (B. nigra) and gray birch (B. populifolia); the lumber from these two would be sold as birch lumber.

Yellow birch, and therefore lumber at sawmills, is found from eastern Minnesota south to northeastern Iowa, northern Illinois, northern Indiana; eastward into Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; and south through the Appalachians to northern Alabama and Georgia; and northward into Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Maine, upper Michigan, and New York, with about 50% of the growing volume in Quebec. In fact, yellow birch is the Official Tree of Quebec.

Paper birch is the most widespread of the three main species. It is found scattered (not dense forest like yellow birch) throughout Canada, in Alaska and south to North Carolina. It is the Official Tree of Saskatchewan and New Hampshire. Bottom line: Probably yellow birch, but no guarantee.



From the original questioner:
Thanks! That's what I thought, just needed some confirmation.

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