The three most important species are yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), sweet birch (B. lenta), and paper birch (B. papyrifera). These three species are the source of most birch lumber and veneer. Other birch species of some commercial importance are river birch (B. nigra), gray birch (B. populifolia), and western paper birch (B. papyrifera var. commutata). Yellow, sweet, and paper birch grow principally in the Northeast and the Lake States; yellow and sweet birch also grow along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.
Yellow birch has white sapwood and light reddish-brown heartwood. Sweet birch has light-colored sapwood and dark brown heartwood tinged with red. For both yellow and sweet birch, the wood is heavy, hard, and strong, and it has good shock-resisting ability. The wood is fine and uniform in texture. Paper birch is lower in weight, softer, and lower in strength than yellow and sweet birch. Birch shrinks considerably during drying.
Yellow and sweet birch lumber is used primarily for the manufacture of furniture, boxes, baskets, crates, wooden ware, cooperage, interior woodwork, and doors; veneer plywood is used for flush doors, furniture, paneling, cabinets, aircraft, and other specialty uses. Paper birch is used for toothpicks, tongue depressors, ice cream sticks, and turned products, including spools, bobbins, small handles, and toys.
*Much of the base wood information presented here is made available by the USDA FPL FS. If you are interested in a much more technical description of wood properties, I encourage you to visit the source.