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Betula populifolia (Gray birch)
Brundage, Stephanie

Betula populifolia

Betula populifolia Marshall

Gray Birch, White Birch, Aspen-leaved Birch

Betulaceae (Birch Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Gray Birch is a narrow, columnar, single- or multi-trunked tree, 35-50 ft. Small, bushy tree with open, conical crown of short slender branches reaching nearly to the ground; more often a clump of several slightly leaning trunks from an old stump. The white, non-peeling bark becomes darker with age. Dark-green leaves turn yellow in fall.

A pioneer tree on clearings, abandoned farms, and burned areas, Gray Birch grows rapidly but is short-lived. A nurse tree, it shades and protects seedlings of the larger, long-lived forest trees. The wood is used for spools and other turned articles and for firewood. Its trunks are so flexible that when weighted with snow, the upper branches may bend to the ground without breaking. The long-stalked leaves dance in the slightest breeze.


From the Image Gallery

8 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Samara
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Green.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Brown.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: CT , DE , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , VA , VT , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Maritime provinces to NJ & VA, scattered w. to n.e. IL
Native Habitat: Wet to dry woods; lake margins; old fields

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Wet to dry, poor soils.


Use Wildlife: Songbirds, ground birds and mammals
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
(Papilio glaucus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

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 Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Betula populifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Betula populifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Betula populifolia


Record Modified: 2023-03-09
Research By: TWC Staff

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