Common Name(s): River Birch
Scientific Name: Betula nigra
Distribution: Eastern United States
Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1.0 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 37 lbs/ft3 (590 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .49, .59
Janka Hardness: 970 lbf (4,320 N)*
*Estimated hardness based on specific gravity
Modulus of Rupture: No data available
Elastic Modulus: No data available
Crushing Strength: No data available
Shrinkage: Radial: 4.7%, Tangential: 9.2%, Volumetric: 13.5%, T/R Ratio: 2.0
Color/Appearance: Heartwood tends to be a light reddish brown, with nearly white sapwood. Occasionally figured pieces are available with a wide, shallow curl similar to the curl found in Cherry. There is virtually no color distinction between annual growth rings, giving Birch a somewhat dull, uniform appearance.
Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight or slightly wavy, with a fine, even texture. Low natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; primarily radial multiples; medium pores in no specific arrangement, moderately numerous to numerous; parenchyma marginal, and sometimes diffuse-in-aggregates (faintly visible with lens); narrow rays, spacing fairly close to close.
Rot Resistance: Birch is perishable, and will readily rot and decay if exposed to the elements. The wood is also susceptible to insect attack.
Workability: Generally easy to work with hand and machine tools, though boards with wild grain can cause grain tearout during machining operations. Turns, glues, and finishes well.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Birch in the Betula genus has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include skin and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Likely to be rather economical in most instances. Figured boards can be more expensive, but normally plain birch lumber is in the same price range as maple or oak.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Plywood, boxes, crates, turned objects, interior trim, and other small specialty wood items.
Comments: Birch is one of the most widely used woods for veneer and plywood worldwide. Besides regular sheets of plywood, Birch veneer is also used for doors, furniture, and paneling.
- Alaska Paper Birch (Betula neoalaskana)
- Alder-leaf Birch (Betula alnoides)
- Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)
- Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)
- Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
- Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
- Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
- Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)