In Finland, birches are a common sight around people’s yards, and we have those, too. In the olden days, birch was important and highly valued for multiple reasons. It was good fuel and very durable when used in tools and containers. The birch bark was used in unbelievably many purposes from rings to rooftops. The layer below the bark, phloem, was used for tanning leather. During the spring, people would collect tasty birch sap to recover their strength after the long winter. The leaves were used as tea, and to dye clothes. Birch saplings and branches were used to make brooms and whisks, and of course they are still used in saunas by gently whipping yourself with it (saunavasta).
Nowadays the most important uses for birch are as pulp for the paper industry, to make furniture, and xylitol is extracted from it.