Home » Compare Plants

Sweet Birch vs Yellow Birch

These two birches can be confused where their ranges overlap, as both have a similar leaf shape, their bark is often similar in color, and both have a wintergreen aroma to their twigs and bark. They can be reliably distinguished by bark texture, or regularity of serrations on leaf margins.

Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)

Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

A tree native to eastern North America, mostly from the Appalachians through southern New England.
A large birch native to northeastern North America, named for the often-yellowish color of its bark.
Bark does not flake or peel. Bark completely smooth on young trees; mature trees have vertical cracks in bark.
Bark flakes off in thin, horizontal, ribbon-like strips. Pattern of flaking relatively consistent across trees of different ages.
Serrations on leaf margins more regular and more dense, usually more than 6 teeth per cm.
Serrations on leaf margin more irregular, and sparser, usually fewer than 6 teeth per cm.
Bark often darker in color, not yellowish, sometimes brownish.
Bark often yellowish.
Bark eventually develops scaly texture on very old trees. Smooth, horizontal texture disappears, especially lower down on the trunk.
Old trees still retain smoother, horizontally-striped bark appearance, even at the base of tree; pattern even evident on large surface roots.