Herb: Kenai Birch

Latin name: Betula kenaica

Synonyms: Betula papyrifera kenaica

Family: Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Medicinal use of Kenai Birch:

The bark is antirheumatic, astringent, lithontripic, salve and sedative.

Description of the plant:


12 m
(39 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Grows along the coast. Rocky slopes in the subalpine zone from sea level to 300 metres.

Edible parts of Kenai Birch:

Young leaves and catkins - raw. The buds and twigs are used as a flavouring in stews. Inner bark - raw or cooked. Best in spring. Inner bark can be dried and ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to flour when making bread, biscuits etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply. Sap - raw or cooked. It can be used as a refreshing drink, or can be concentrated by boiling to make a syrup. It is tapped in late winter, the flow is best on sunny days following a heavy frost. The sap can be fermented into a beer. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows:- "To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr"d together, then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm"d. When it is sufficiently boil"d, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work... and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum.".

Other uses of the herb:

An infusion of the plant is used as a hair conditioner and dandruff treatment. Wood - close-grained, light, strong, hard, tough. It makes a good fuel, whilst the bark makes a good kindling.

Propagation of Kenai Birch:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a light position in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed and place the pot in a sunny position. Spring sown seed should be surface sown in a sunny position in a cold frame. If the germination is poor, raising the temperature by covering the seed with glass can help. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. If you have sufficient seed, it can be sown in an outdoor seedbed, either as soon as it is ripe or in the early spring - do not cover the spring sown seed. Grow the plants on in the seedbed for 2 years before planting them out into their permanent positions in the winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Grows along the coast. Rocky slopes in the subalpine zone from sea level to 300 metres.

Known hazards of Betula kenaica:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.