|Family Betulaceae - Alder, Birch & Hornbeam |
This family is traceable in the fossil record to the early Cretaceous, 140 million years ago.
Plants in this family are highly prized as ornamentals and specimen plantings.
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Japanese White Birch
European White Birch
"Betulaceae belongs to an ancient lineage, traceable in the fossil record to the upper Cretaceous. They are easily distinguished by their woody habit; simple, pinnately veined, usually ovate, sharp-toothed leaves; long staminate catkins that often develop the season before anthesis; and (except in Corylus and Ostryopsis ) strobiluslike infructescences. The family is held together on the basis of many features, including habit, leaf structure and arrangement, trichome morphology, wood anatomy, inflorescence morphology, ovary and ovule structure, pollen morphology, embryo structure, and fertilization and germination patterns. Five of the six constituent genera inhabit the boreal and cool temperate zones of Eurasia, North America, and the mountains of Mexico and Central America, and two genera also grow in the Andes to northern Argentina in South America. The remaining genus, Ostryopsis Decaisne (most closely related to Corylus Linnaeus), consists of two species of shrubs restricted to northern and western China.
Birch grows in climates ranging from boreal to humid and tolerates wide variations in precipitation. Its northern limit of growth is arctic Canada and Alaska, in boreal spruce woodlands, in mountain and sub alpine forests of the western United States, the Great Plains, and in coniferous - deciduous forests of the Northeast and Great Lakes states.
The group is sometimes divided into two families, Betulaceae ( Alnus and Betula ) and Corylaceae (Carpinus , Ostrya , Corylus , and Ostryopsis), especially in Europe. In America, this treatment has been followed by A. J. Rehder (1940), J. K. Small, and a few others.
Some of those writers have based their recognition of two families in part on the belief that a fundamental difference exists in the staminate inflorescences of the two groups. This view is no longer widely accepted, and most modern authors maintain the family as a single group composed of two subfamilies, Betuloideae and Coryloideae." 
Arctic Moor Birch
Downy / Moor Birch
European Black Alder
Asian White Birch
Pyramidal Black Alder
European White Alder
Alders are monoecious, that is, they have both sexes present on the same plant. Long, hanging male catkins are produced in the early winter then release pollen the following spring. Tiny female catkins appear at the shoot tips in early spring. These female catkins ripen to form green, woody conelets that after fertilization ripen into open cone-like structures called strobiles, from which the seeds are released.
1. eFloras.org, Flora of North America
2. World Health Organization, Medicinal Plants in the Republic of Korea, Betula platyphylla var. japonica
3. Eun Mi Ju et al., “Antioxidant and anticancer activity of extract from Betula platyphylla var. japonica,”
Life Sciences 74, no. 8 (January 2004)
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