Birch (Family Betulaceae)
Betulaceae, or the Birch Family, includes six genera of deciduous
nut- bearing trees and shrubs, including the birches, alders, hazels,
hornbeams and hop-hornbeams, numbering about 130 species.
They are mostly natives of the temperate Northern Hemisphere,
with a few species reaching the Southern Hemisphere in the Andes
in South America.
The common hazel (Corylus avellana) and the filbert (Corylus
maxima) are important orchard plants, grown for their edible nuts.
The other genera include a number of popular ornamental trees,
widely planted in parks and large gardens; several of the birches
are particularly valued for their smooth, brightly coloured bark.
The wood is generally hard, tough and heavy, hornbeams particularly
so; several species were of significant importance in the past where
very hard wood capable of withstanding heavy wear was required,
such as for cartwheels, water wheels, cog wheels, tool handles, chop-
ping boards and wooden pegs. In most of these uses wood has now
been replaced by metal or other man-made materials.
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