Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Betula alleghaniensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Betula lutea Michx. 
B. alleghaniensis var. macrolepis (Fern) Brayshaw [76,131]
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of yellow birch is Betula
alleghaniensis Britt. [14,76]. A recognized form is B. a. forma fallax
(Fassett) Brayshaw .
Yellow birch hybridizes with low birch (B. pumila L. var. glandulifera
Reg.). The hybrid is named B. xpurpusii C. K. Schneid . An
additional entity formed by a backcross of B. xpurpusii and B.
alleghaniensis has also been named: B. xmurrayana Barnes & Dancik .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
The range of yellow birch extends from southern Newfoundland, Cape
Breton Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Anticosti Island, the Gaspe
peninsula, and Maine west to southern and southwestern Ontario and
Minnesota; south to northern New Jersey, northern Ohio, extreme northern
Indiana and Illinois; and south in the mountains to South Carolina,
extreme northeastern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee .
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
CT GA IN IL IA KY ME MD MA MI
MN NH NJ NY NC OH PA RI SC TN
VT VA WV WI NB NF NS ON PQ
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
5 Balsam fir
17 Pin cherry
18 Paper birch
19 Gray birch - red maple
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
37 Northern white-cedar
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
50 Black locust
58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
107 White spruce
108 Red maple
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Yellow birch is usually found singly or in small groups , growing
with American beech (Fagus grandifolia), maples (Acer spp.),
particularly sugar maple (A. saccharum), ashes (Fraxinus spp.), aspens
(Populus spp.), other birches (Betula spp.), eastern white pine (Pinus
strobus), red spruce (Picea rubens), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea)
. In the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest region, yellow birch
occurs in mixed forests with red pine (P. resinosa) and eastern white
pine, and with eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) . Yellow birch is
a dominant, codominant, or important species in northern hardwoods-red
spruce forest, northern hardwoods, transition hardwoods-eastern white
pine, and in central hardwoods-eastern hemlock-eastern white pine .
Yellow birch is codominant with yellow buckeye (Aesculus octandra) in
western Great Smoky Mountains National Park . In the Catskill
Mountains of New York, yellow birch is dominant in some spruce-fir
stands and codominant in most others. It occurs as nearly pure stands
on steep slopes at higher altitudes, or mixed with black cherry (Prunus
serotina), mountain maple (Acer spicatum), red maple (A. rubrum) and
paper birch (B. papyrifera) in open, scrubby stands on ridgetops .
Small trees and shrubs associated with yellow birch include sweet birch
(B. lenta), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), American hornbeam
(Carpinus caroliniana), striped maple (A. pensylvanicum), mountain
maple, alternate-leaved dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), beaked hazelnut
(Corylus cornuta), Atlantic leatherwood (Dirca palustris), witch-hazel
(Hamamelis virginiana), American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis),
American mountain-ash (Sorbus americana), Canada elderberry (Sambucus
canadensis), Canada yew (Taxus canadensis), and mapleleaf viburnum
(Viburnum acerifolium) .
The largest concentrations of yellow birch are found in Quebec, Ontario, New
Brunswick, Maine, upper Michigan, and New York. About 50 percent of the
growing stock volume of yellow birch is in Quebec .
Publications listing yellow birch as a dominant or codominant species in
vegetation classification schemes include:
The natural forests of Maryland: an explanation of the vegetation map of
Field guide: Habitat classification system for Upper Peninsula of
Michigan and northeast Wisconsin 
White Mountain landscapes 
A forest classification for the Maritime Provinces 
A classification of the deciduous forest of eastern North America 
Vegetation-environment relations in virgin, middle elevation forests
in the Adirondack Mountains, New York 
Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains 
Classification of forest ecosystems in Michigan 
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Yellow birch is an economically important source of lumber. The wood is
heavy, strong, and close-grained. It is used for furniture, cabinetry,
charcoal, pulp , interior finish, veneer, tool handles , boxes,
woodenware, and interior doors .
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Yellow birch is browsed by moose, white-tailed deer, and snowshoe hare.
Deer consume large numbers of seedlings in summer, and prefer green
leaves and woody stems in fall [32,104]. Yellow birch seeds are
consumed by common redpoll, pine siskin, chickadees, and other songbirds
. Ruffed grouse feed on seeds, catkins, and buds. Red squirrel
cut and store mature strobili, eat yellow birch seeds, and also feed on
birch sap. The yellow-bellied sapsucker uses yellow birch as a summer
food source [32,104]. Beaver and porcupine chew the bark of yellow
Yellow birch was listed as a highly preferred browse species in northern
hardwood forests . In New Hampshire, white-tailed deer browsed
birch twigs (both yellow birch and paper birch) at a browse index rate
of approximately 4 (i.e., four times the expected rate based on
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Early colonizers of a site denuded of vegetation by brine (used for
well-injection fluid) included yellow birch. Soil salinity levels had
returned to slightly above normal when initial colonization occurred .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Yellow birch can be tapped for sap which is used to make an edible
syrup. Tea can be made from the twigs and/or inner bark .
Yellow birch chips can be used to produce ethanol and other products .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Numerous management guidelines for yellow birch and yellow
birch-containing types [43,46,73,111], and recommendations for
silvicultural treatments [68,98,113,114] are available in the
literature. Shaw  reported on management considerations for
wildlife in northern hardwoods.
Harvest System and Regeneration: Yellow birch regenerates primarily by
germination; very little advance regeneration is usually present
[38,60]. Early twentieth century logging practices that favored shade
tolerant species resulted in a decrease in yellow birch . The
effects of different harvesting systems and conditions on yellow birch
regeneration have been studied and reviewed [70,92,109]. Harvest should
coincide with good seed years . Clearcutting small patches or
strips provides suitable conditions for yellow birch seedling
establishment in the Northeast [32,38,74,82,84]. Yellow birch
reproduces well on patch cuttings of up to 0.3 acre (0.12 ha) . In
New Hampshire, strip cutting failed to increase the proportion of yellow
birch in the stand but it did increase the percentage of yellow birch
likely to become crop trees . Group selection can significantly
increase the proportion of yellow birch by creating openings for yellow
birch regeneration [27,83]. In New Hampshire, after 38 years of group
selection yellow birch comprised one-quarter to one-third of the trees
in the 4- to 12-inch d.b.h. class. The pretreatment proportion was not
reported; however, under single-tree selection yellow birch will usually
decline to less than 20 percent, and sometimes to less than 10 percent,
of stocking [27,72]. In the Great Lakes States, 20 years after group
selection yellow birch had not increased in proportion to other species
. Shelterwood systems designed to increase the proportion of yellow
birch have been investigated [46,49,64,115].
Seedbed Preparation: Scarification of seedbeds improves yellow birch
seedling establishment , although the effects may be short-lived if
organic matter is scraped away rather than mixed in with the mineral
soil . Yellow birch can be direct seeded after harvest in the
northern hardwood forest zone .
Harvesting Considerations: Yellow birch is windfirm on deep,
well-drained loam and sandy loam soils, but is subject to windthrow on
shallow, poorly drained soils. It is susceptible to winter sunscald
. Yellow birch is sensitive to high soil temperatures and sudden
exposure . It is also susceptible to root, stem, and crown injury
due to logging and is subject to insect attack as a consequence of
injury. Top dieback and some mortality occur after heavy cuts in mature
and overmature stands .
Damaging Agents: Yellow birch is susceptible to ice and snow load
damage, and young trees are vulnerable to late spring frosts. Yellow
birch is susceptible to injury at 3.5 ppm sulfur dioxide but is tolerant
of ozone at 0.25 ppm . Hacker and Renfro  rated yellow birch as
slightly sensitive to ozone. Top dieback sometimes occurs following
heavy seed crops . Heavy or repeated browsing by deer and moose
kills small yellow birch. Sometimes browsing prevents regeneration
. In New York, growth of yellow birch was not detected on
postharvest plots that were unfenced . Porcupine feeding damages
birch crowns, reduces wood quality, and is sometimes fatal. Red
squirrel cut new germinants . Heavy feeding by yellow-bellied
sapsucker reduces growth, lowers wood quality, and is sometimes fatal
. Yellow birch has relatively few species-specific insect pests,
but is frequently attacked by pests typically associated with other
northern hardwood species . Insect and disease damaging agents are
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Yellow birch is a native, deciduous tree. It usually ranges from 60 to
75 feet (18-23 m) in height and up to 2 feet (0.6 m) in diameter, and
occasionally grows to 100 feet (30 m) in height and 4 feet (1.2 m) in
diameter [14,44,53]. Open-grown yellow birch crowns are long and wide
spreading; in more dense forest crowns are short and irregularly rounded
. The trunk usually divides into a few spreading branches but
lateral shade produces a straight trunk that extends nearly to the top
of the tree. In dense stands the trunk is free of branches for over
half the height of the tree . The bark is somewhat lustrous,
separating in thin layers  which exfoliate and result in a finely
shaggy appearance . On old trunks, the bark is deeply grooved and
about 0.5-inch (1.2-cm) thick . The root system of yellow birch is
generally shallow but variable. There is a well-developed extensive
lateral root system; roots spread horizontally or may penetrate more
than 5 feet (1.5 m). Yellow birch is monoecious . The fruit is a
winged nutlet 0.13- to 0.14-inch (3.2-3.5-mm) long (not including
the wings) .
Yellow birch is slow growing . Average longevity is approximately
150 years, but maximum longevity is over 300 years .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Yellow birch reproduces primarily by seed; seedlings and young saplings
will sprout but sprouts are weak and short lived. Older trees do not
Reproductive Age and Seed Crop Production: Under normal conditions,
yellow birch first reproduces at about 40 years. Optimum seed
production occurs at about 70 years of age. However, seeds have been
produced by 7-year-old open-grown saplings, and heavy seed crops have
been produced by 30- to 40-year-old yellow birch in open-grown positions
or in thinned stands. Yellow birch produces good seed crops at 1- to
4-year intervals, usually with very little seed produced in intervening
years [1,32]. Out of every 10 years, yellow birch averages 1 heavy seed
year, 3.5 medium years, 4.5 light or very light years, and 1 year of
seed failure . The maximum number of successive good crops was 4
years . Yellow birch is a prolific seed producer, and viability is
usually good , although seed quality is variable from year to year
[60,82]. Seed longevity up to 8 years has been achieved under
laboratory conditions; under natural conditions viability drops off
rapidly the second year [58,60]. However, Roberts and Dong 
reported that a substantial amount of yellow birch regeneration was
derived from 2-year-old seed.
Seed Dispersal: Yellow birch seed is disseminated by wind, most of the
seed falling after cold weather begins. The winged nutlets may travel
up to 1,320 feet (400 m) over crusted snow . Effective dispersal is
approximately 2 to 4 times tree height . Korstian  estimated
that if yellow birch seeds are released from 50 feet (15 m),
in a 5 mile per hour wind, 50 percent will fall within 700 feet (213 m)
of the release point, and 90 percent within 820 feet (250 m).
Seed Germination: Yellow birch seeds contain a water-soluble
germination inhibitor. This inhibitor is inactivated by light. Under
artificial conditions, seed dormancy is broken by stratification or by
exposure of imbibed seed to cool-white fluorescent light . Yellow
birch seeds germinate and grow best on moist mineral soil enriched with
humus; bare mineral soil and duff alone are unsuitable substrates
[16,64,82,124]. However, in undisturbed stands, germination of yellow
birch seeds usually occurs on mossy logs, decayed wood, in cracks in
boulders and on windthrown tree hummocks [32,67]. Optimum germination
of yellow birch occurs at 59 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit (15-16 deg C)
. A substrate pH of 2.4 completely inhibited germination, and pH
3.0 partly inhibited germination (50.7 percent) [94,96].
Seedling Establishment and Growth: Yellow birch seedlings require
overhead light, crown expansion space, and plentiful soil moisture and
nutrients to compete with faster growing associates; conditions found in
gaps are conducive to yellow birch seedling establishment [1,32]. Some
shade improves seedling survival . In one study, heavily shaded
(14-25% of full sun) yellow birch seedlings grew taller and had more
leaf area than those in full sun, but unshaded seedlings accumulated
more biomass . Mortality of yellow birch seedlings is usually very
high . In one study, minimum mortality was estimated as 97 percent
14 months after germination. Seedling survival is better on disturbed
microsites; seedlings that germinate on litter are unlikely to survive
[26,40]. Seedlings surviving their first year survive to sapling and
larger stages only where there is sufficient light . Surviving
seedlings in hemlock-northern hardwood forests occur on microhabitats
with slightly lower canopy cover than in the surrounding area, primarily
under coniferous rather than mixed canopies . Growth is better on
humus over sandy loams than on decayed logs, mineral soil, or litter
Vegetative Reproduction: Greenwood cuttings of yellow birch have been
successfully rooted and overwintered. Propagation by grafting is also
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Soils: Yellow birch occurs on moist, well-drained soils of uplands and
mountain ravines . It occurs on various soil types including
glacial tills, outwash sands, lacustrine deposits, shallow loess, and
residual soils derived from sandstone, limestone, igneous, and
metamorphic rock . In the Adirondacks, yellow birch occurs on soils
derived from limestone, gneiss, anorthosite, sandstones, shales, and
conglomerates . The best growth occurs on well-drained fertile
loams and moderately well-drained sandy loams . Even though growth
is poor, yellow birch is often abundant where drainage is restricted.
Yellow birch occurs on muck soils with pH 7.5 to 8.0 . In New York,
yellow birch occurred on wetland soils with soil surface pH ranging from
4.0 to 6.8 . Birches (Betula spp.) are sensitive to soil phosphorus
Periodic droughts are damaging to yellow birch because of its shallow
Elevation: In the Adirondacks and the Appalachians, yellow birch
reaches its maximum importance in the transition zone between low
elevation deciduous forest and montane spruce-fir forests. In the
Adirondacks, it occurs at elevations ranging from 100 feet (30 m) to
3,413 feet (1040 m), but is uncommon above 3,000 feet (914 m)
[10,39,61,67]. The lower slopes to about 2,310 feet (700 m) are
dominated by sugar maple, American beech, and yellow birch. Between
2,310 feet and 2,970 feet (700-900 m) is a transition zone to spruce and
spruce-fir forests. In the southern Appalachians the highest importance
value for yellow birch occurs at mid- to high-elevations from 2,800 to
3,000 feet (853-914 m) [19,23]. In western Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, yellow birch tends to be more concentrated in protected
coves at lower elevations, and spreads out of the coves at higher
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
Yellow birch is intermediate in shade tolerance. Leak  assigned
yellow birch to the category of persistent successional species. Yellow
birch is described as opportunistic due to its habit of producing
abundant small seed . Yellow birch seeds comprised a higher than
expected proportion (compared to the abundance of mature trees) of the
seed rain and seedbank of a mixed forest . The presence of yellow
birch in mid- to late-successional stands depends on local disturbance
[28,71]; it cannot reproduce under a closed canopy and requires soil
disturbance and light for seedling survival . Birches respond to
gaps of all sizes, with a peak density found in gaps of about 2,800
square feet (250 sq m) in Pennsylvania. In the southern Appalachians,
birches exhibited a peak density in 10-year-old gaps . In southern
Appalachian spruce-fir forests, yellow birch seedlings were the most
abundant species in gap plots but not in closed-canopy plots. They
exhibited the highest growth rate of any species in gaps . The
origin of the gap is apparently important; in upper Michigan, yellow
birch apparently failed to establish readily in gaps formed by stem
breakage because soil was undisturbed . Yellow birch decreased
between 1964 and 1986 in red spruce-Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) stands,
even though there was loss of the Fraser fir to insect attack .
Yellow birch seedlings do not successfully compete with advance
regeneration of other northern hardwood species, grasses, and forbs
. However, in sugar maple-beech-yellow birch forests, seedlings of
the three dominants were approximately equally abundant . In mature
hemlock-hardwood forests in New York, yellow birch was the third most
common seedling species, distributed randomly as to canopy type .
Yellow birch seedlings tend to occur in clumps. The abundance of yellow
birch seedlings in Quebec was almost always negatively correlated to
that of other tree species even though its seed abundance was positively
related to that of other species . Sugar maple seedlings produce an
allelopathic substance that inhibits the root growth of yellow birch
Early Successional Stands: Yellow birch is a common early to
mid-successional associate in aspen-birch stands . In northern
hardwood ecosystems, yellow birch reaches maximum importance levels
within 15 years of disturbance, and those levels are maintained for at
least 100 years . On Isle Royale, Michigan, a paper birch-dominated
stand that originated after fire early in this century is undergoing
canopy invasion by sugar maple and yellow birch . In New Hampshire,
succession was monitored after experimental deforestation and 3 years of
vegetation suppression. Yellow birch comprised 0.6 percent of total
biomass in the first year of succession, and increased to 11.8 percent
in the nineteenth year . Second-growth stands usually contain
approximately the same percentage of yellow birch as virgin stands .
Yellow birch occurs on fine till with importance peaking at about 80
years. On sandy soils, the trend is indistinct, probably declining over
time . On old fields in Tennessee, succession included small
amounts of yellow birch in 15-year-old stands. Yellow birch occurred at
maximum density on 42- and 48-year-old plots, was present in lower
numbers on the 63-year-old plot, and was not present in the old-growth
Mid- to Late-Successional Stands: Yellow birch is abundant in mid- to
late-successional balsam fir-yellow birch-paper birch-white spruce
(Picea glauca) stands on Isle Royale . It is a major gap-phase
component of sugar maple-beech-yellow birch and hemlock-yellow birch
cover types . The age distribution of yellow birch in a virgin
northern hardwoods forest was somewhat irregular: There were many
10-year-old saplings, no 40-year-old trees, and many 100-year-old trees
. In Wisconsin, even-aged northern hardwoods contain a high
proportion of yellow birch and uneven-aged stands tend towards pure
sugar maple . In many old-growth stands, yellow birch gradually
decreases in importance as the stand ages. In Tennessee, in both
hemlock-mixed forest and mixed deciduous forest, yellow birch decreased
between 1935 and 1987 in undisturbed stands .
Climax Stands: Cary  described a climax forest in Maine consisting
of red spruce, American beech, maples, and yellow birch. Hansen and
others  described a yellow birch-sugar maple type as the climax
forest on Isle Royale, Michigan. These forests have not experienced
major disturbances for more than 120 years and include yellow birch of
up to 150 years of age . Yellow birch was present in old-growth
forests in New York. The average ages of yellow birch trees in two
stands were 200 and 250 years . Forcier  explained the presence
of yellow birch in climax stands as a combination of longevity and
micro-succession. At the single tree level, yellow birch is replaced by
sugar maple which is replaced by beech, which, following a small-scale
disturbance, is replaced by yellow birch .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
The pistillate catkins of yellow birch form in the fall, and finish
development from late May to early June. The fruit ripens from late
August to early September . The phenology of yellow birch in
northern Minnesota was reported as follows :
flower appearance April 2 to May 16
initial bud swell April 6 to May 1
leaf out May 3 to May 25
anthesis May 13 to May 29
seed fall (initiation) August 6
leaf fall September 26 to October 4
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Yellow birch is susceptible to fire injury due to its thin bark ;
young yellow birch do not usually survive fire. Mature trees may
survive because the thin forest floor under large yellow birch does not
usually support severe or persistent surface fire . Yellow birch
germinates readily on early postfire sites [91,92,115].
Forest Type: Heinselman  suggested that the presence of yellow
birch in old mixed forests is hard explain without fire disturbance;
however, other authors describe yellow birch as opportunistic with
respect to fire but not fire dependent . Lorimer [77,78] reported
that the presence of yellow birch (in land survey records) is not a
reliable indicator of previous fire. In Massachusetts, a beech-hemlock
forest containing yellow birch developed on an island where fire had not
occurred for many years. The land surrounding the island is occupied by
fire-dependent pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and scrub oak types. In the
1940's the island forest was broken up by a hurricane, which corresponds
with the age of many yellow birch .
Fire Frequency: Yellow birch typically occurs in forests with fire-free
intervals of at least 150 to 300 years; the fire regime is characterized
by crown and severe surface fires in combination . The
presettlement hemlock-northern hardwood forests experienced fire
infrequently . In Wisconsin, mesic hemlock-northern hardwood forests
north and east of the transition zone between the fire-dependent
prairie-savanna mosaic and nonfire-dependent forest probably experienced
fire periodically prior to the fire-suppression era. The presence of
large, late-successional species indicates that the average interval
between stand-replacing fires was longer than the average lifespan of
major tree species in the region . In the Great Lakes States and
Acadian Forest region, presettlement northern hardwoods-pine-spruce-fir
forests probably had a semieven-aged structure where less shade-tolerant
components were maintained by long-return interval disturbances such as
fire or windstorms. Most fires in these forests were severe surface
fires, occurring only after prolonged drought, and usually affecting
forests that were breaking up due to other factors (and thus had heavy
fuels). Estimates for Maine presettlement fire return intervals range
from 806 to 1,923 years .
In the twentieth century, forest types containing yellow birch in New
Brunswick have either experienced no fires or have had very long
fire-free intervals. For sugar maple-yellow birch-fir in New Brunswick,
the mean annual area burned between 1931 and 1970 was about 0.16 percent
of the total area of that type . A similar study for Nova Scotia
reported that 0.03 percent of the total area (of sugar maple-yellow
birch-fir) burned annually between 1915 and 1975 . In northern
Maine, hardwood forests were estimated to have a fire return interval of
approximately 800 years . Northern hardwood forests had estimated
fire return intervals (from data spanning 1903-1956) of 910 years for
Maine and 770 years for New Hampshire .
Fire Season and Conditions: At low elevations in the southern
Appalachians, lightning-caused fires occur less often in the hardwood
forests than in pine-hardwood forests. Fire frequency by forest type is
related to the month of occurrence. Fires that occur before May usually
start at higher elevations; after May, more fires start at lower
elevations and are concentrated in the pine-hardwood type, possibly
because after hardwoods have leafed out fuel moistures are too high to
support fire . In Maine, northern hardwoods are less likely to burn
than other forest types, and are more susceptible to fire damage.
Ignition and spread of fire are unlikely except during the most severe
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree without adventitious-bud root crown
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Yellow birch seedlings and saplings are killed by even low-severity
fires . Small trees were killed by fire that left large trees in a
northern hardwoods forest unharmed . Large trees usually survive
fire; Martin  mentioned the presence of large, old yellow birch that
predate a fire that initiated a red maple-paper birch stand in Ontario.
A subjective ranking of tree fire resistance compiled by Starker 
listed yellow birch as twelfth out of twenty-two species rated.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Yellow birch is a poor sprouter following top-kill by fire. Seed
germination and seedling establishment are enhanced by fire disturbance.
Yellow birch frequently forms pure patches following fire. In Wisconsin
northern hardwood forests it often comprises 60 percent of the hardwood
thickets . Most of the research on yellow birch regeneration is
associated with logging regimes, so it is not clear what role fire plays
in yellow birch regeneration in unmanaged stands. It is likely that a
low-intensity, patchy fire would create conditions that favor yellow
birch regeneration by reducing the hardwood leaf mat and exposing
mineral soil, but leaving mature trees as a seed source .
In northern hardwood forests, postfire regeneration is likely to include
at least a small proportion of yellow birch. Major postfire species in
this area are paper birch, gray birch (Betula populifolia), aspens, red
spruce, and pines (Pinus spp.) [32,89]. In the Laurentian Highlands of
central Quebec, yellow birch is present in low numbers in early postfire
succession on well-drained sites in montane mixed forests. The main
colonizers are balsam fir and paper birch . In North Carolina
spruce-fir forests, which rarely burn, yellow birch was important in
postfire regeneration . Gibson  reported that former Atlantic
white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) swamps developed into red maple or
red maple-yellow birch stands following fire. In northwestern
Pennsylvania, a ridge that supported a dense stand of eastern hemlock
and mixed hardwoods was converted by fire to a stand composed of red
maple, black cherry, yellow birch, and water birch (B. occidentalis) .
In northern hardwood types in Wisconsin, low-severity surface fires seem
to favor sugar maple over yellow birch and beech. Severe fires,
however, destroy existing sugar maple reproduction and create openings
in the canopy, favoring yellow birch. The composition of a northern
hardwood stand was traced to three distinct fires, each of which was
followed by an increase in the proportion of yellow birch . Birches
(yellow birch, sweet birch, and paper birch) exhibited a pulse of
reproduction after a surface fire in Connecticut, peaking in density
around 25 years. By 55 years after the fire birch density on burned and
unburned stands was similarly low .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Regression coefficients relating bark thickness to diameter at breast height
have been published for yellow birch .
The moisture content of the inner bark of yellow birch ranges from 44 to
65 percent, depending on season of sampling. The heat of combustion
of dry yellow birch bark is 9,200 Btu .
Site Preparation: Fire has been used to create suitable seedbed
conditions for yellow birch regeneration . In New York, the number
of yellow birch seedlings was higher on postharvest plots that had been
prescribed burned and scarified than on plots that had either been
prescribed burned or scarified, or on control plots . Prescribed
fires have been used for yellow birch seedbed preparation in Ontario.
The fires were conducted in late fall, after sugar maple and beech leaf
and seedfall and before the major portion of yellow birch seeds were
dispersed. Low-intensity surface fires consumed litter and killed
advance regeneration of sugar maple. These fires did not significantly
reduce the number of stems (all species) greater than 0.6 inch (1.5 cm)
d.b.h., though basal scarring was evident. Fire-prepared plots resulted
in higher stocking of yellow birch than unburned plots, and reduced the
development of sugar maple [6,16].
SPECIES: Betula alleghaniensis
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