Yellow birch is most easily recognized by its bark which is shiny, yellow or silvery in color and peels off in shaggy, papery , horizontal curls (unless the tree is greater than 2 feet in circumference). Yellow birch leaves, like black birch, have a wintergreen odor when crushed but these leaves have side veins that are often branched, unlike black birch. Male and female flowers are borne separately in catkins. The male catkins are long and dangling. The female catkins are more compact. In the Fall, the leaves turn yellow.
Mountain folk like to use Yellow birch wood for baking since it is slow burning and gives off lots of heat. The papery bark is often used as a fire starter in wet weather. Yellow birch is also a popular wood for flooring and making toothpicks. This tree is one of the most common trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park between 3,500 - 5,000 feet in elevation.