This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
This family consists of graceful trees and shrubs, natives of colder regions of each hemisphere. No trees are more distinguished for their light and feathery foliage, and the graceful sweep of their limbs, than the Birches. From the delicate and slender Gray Birch, throwing its thin, delicate leaves, and often pensive spray, lightly on the air, to the broad-headed Black Birch, with its rich, glossy, and abundant foliage, weighing its pendulous branches almost to the ground, no family of trees affords such a pleasing variety of aspect.
The Black Birch is easily distinguished by the dark color of its bark. It is the most beautiful, and, for the useful qualities of its wood, the most valuable of its species.
The Yellow Birch, in its native forests, is a lofty tree, lifting its hoad into the sunshine among the Hemlocks, Rock Maples, and Ashes, with which it grows. It is distinguished by its yellowish bark, of a soft, silken texture, and silvery or pearly lustre. The Yellow Birch has not often been cultivated for ornament, but it has great beauty. In travelling, we sometimes see it on the edge of a wood, with its abundant soft, green, often drooping foliage, between masses of which is seen the gleam of the light bronze trunk, with its silver and pearly lustre, showing what might be its effect introduced in ornamental woods in our pleasure grounds, parks, etc.
The Red Birch is somewhat different in aspect and character from the other birches. It is usually found bending over a stream, with its roots always in the water or growing in company with the Swamp Oak or Red Maple, in places which, during one half the year, are inundated. When erect and standing alone, it is a singularly graceful tree, with its upper limbs long and sweeping out like those of the Elm, and its trunk almost clothed with small branches. Usually, it is remarkable for throwing out many small branches above.