Sweet birch may have got its name from both the sweetness of the inner bark and from the use of its sap in making beer. Other common names in America include Cherry birch and Black birch, both references to the dark cherry-like trunk. This species also differs from the familiar Finnish white and silver birches in the leaves, which are large enough to almost hide the branches, rather like its close relative the yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Both these American species are native to the eastern deciduous forests. Sweet birch is rather more southern and less winter hardy. It was brought to Mustila by the 1996 collecting expedition to New England, from Vermont.
Sweet birch has had a variety of uses in America, including medicinal. The bark of the branches has a strong herbal smell and was earlier used to distil an essential oil called wintergreen. Nowadays this is made artificially and is widely used in America as flavouring in sweets, chewing gum and toothpaste, for example.