BIRCH-WOOD, a forest tree common to Europe and North America; the finest is imported from Canada, St. John's, and Pictou. It is an excellent wood for the turner, being light-coloured, compact, and easily worked: it is in general softer and darker than beech, and unlike it in grain.
Birch-wood is not very durable, it is considerably used in furniture; some of the wood is almost as handsomely figured as Honduras mahogany, and when coloured and varnished, is not easily distinguished from it. The bark of the birch-tree is remarkable for being harder and more durable than the wood itself, amongst the Northern nations it is used for tiles for roofs, for shoes, hats, etc, and in Canada for boats. The Russians employ the tan of one of the birch-trees to impart the scent to Russia leather, which is thereby rendered remarkably durable. The inner bark is used for making the Russia mats.
The English birch is much smaller than the foreign, and lighter in colour; it is chiefly used for common turnery. Some of the Russian birch, (called Russian maple,) is very beautiful and of a full yellow colour.
Betula alba is the common birch of Europe, and the most common tree throughout the Russian empire. The Russian maple of commerce is thought to be the wood of the birch. Betula lento, mahogany birch and mountain mahogany, of America, has close-grained, reddish-brown timber, which is variegated and well adapted to cabinet-work. It is imported in considerable quantities into England under the name of American birch.
Betula excelsa; tall, also called yellow birch, has wood much like the last, and B. nigra, or black, is also much esteemed. B. papyracea, paper, or canoe birch, is employed by the North American Indians in constructing their portable canoes. B. Bhojputtra is a Himalayan species, of which the bark is used for writing upon and for making the snakes of hookahs.