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Vick, Albert F. W.
Betula papyrifera Marshall
Paper birch, Canoe birch, White birch
USDA Symbol: bepa
A characteristic deciduous tree of the Northwoods, paper birch is a 50-75 ft. single- or multi-trunked tree with conspicuous, white, peeling bark. Loosely pyramidal in youth, the tree develops an irregular, rounded crown in maturity. Bright green leaves turn yellow in fall. One of the most beautiful native trees, with narrow, open crown of slightly drooping to nearly horizontal branches; sometimes a shrub.
Paper Birch is used for specialty products such as ice cream sticks, toothpicks, bobbins, clothespins, spools, broom handles, and toys, as well as pulpwood. Indians made their lightweight birchbark canoes by stretching the stripped bark over frames of Northern White-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), sewing it with thread from Tamarack (Larix laricina) roots, and caulking the seams with pine or Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea or A. concolor) resin. Souvenirs of birch bark should always be from a fallen log, since stripping bark from living trees leaves permanent ugly black scars.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf:
Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr
, WY Canada: AB
, YT Native Distribution:
Nf. & Lab. to AK,
s. to NJ, VA
mts., n.e. IN, WY
& n.e. OR Native Habitat:
Low, wet areas; moist hillsides; stream banks
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
High Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Moist CaCO3 Tolerance:
Low Soil Description:
Moist, fertile, cool soils. Conditions Comments:
Paper birch is sensitive to disease and insects, especially the bronze birch borer, under unfavorable growing conditions. The species requires cool summers where average July temperatures are below 70 degrees. Do not prune until summer when the sap
has stopped flowing. More tolerant of high pH than river birch. Short-lived. The species white bark
achieves maximum ornamental value with a dark background of pine, spruce and fir. Susceptible to Bronze Birch borer and Birch Dieback.
Songbirds, ground birds and mammals use this species. Use Other:
Many First Nations in BC
use birch bark
as material for baskets, cradles and canoes. They drink the sap
as a medicine for colds. Birch wood furnished First Nations People with snowshoe frames. The bark
served as a covering for the tepee or lodge. Rolled into a spill, it served as a taper or punk-stick to keep away mosquitoes. It made good paper for kindling a fire started first in punkwood of rotten Yellow Birch. (Peattie) Attracts:
Birds , Butterflies Larval Host:
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
PropagationDescription: Fall sow in moist, sandy soil with germination occuring in the spring. Germination is facilitated by exposure to light; never plant too deeply. Cuttings can be rooted but must be allowed to go through a natural dormancy period before transplanting.
Seed Collection: Birch seed is collected by picking the catkins while they are still green enough to hold together. They shatter easily and should be put directly into bags.
Commercially Avail: yes
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery
- Orefield, PA
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
- Johnstown, PA
Record Last Modified: 2012-10-15
Research By: TWC Staff