Tree Spotlight: Sweet Birch
The Sweet Birch tree (Betula lenta), aka Black Birch, Mahogany Birch, and Cherry Birch, is a deciduous tree native to the eastern United States and into North Georgia.
It prefers moist, well-drained woodland slopes and is often found on rocky sites facing north or east. This species is at the southernmost point of its natural range here in North GA, is not typically available for purchase in nurseries, and is thus not as commonly seen as other Birch species in this area. It is intolerant of drought conditions, and is important for butterflies, insect pollinators, small mammals, and birds. The Birch genus is host to ~400 Native Leipdoptera species.
Tell this tree apart from other Birches most easily by the wintergreen mint smell that is emitted when the stems are crushed.
The Sweet Birch has smooth hairless twigs with red-brown to black bark and prominent, lighter-colored lenticels.
The most similar looking species when young is the Yellow Birch, but B. alleghaniensis has less strong smelling stems, hairy buds and stems, and peeling mature bark.
This specimen was found beyond the Raven Cliff Falls Trail in the Raven Cliff Wilderness of North Georgia.