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Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch)

Paper Birch, Canoe Birch, White Birch

Betula papyrifera, Paper Birch, Canoe Birch, White Birch, Tree with fall color, Fall color, Attractive bark Tree,
Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera

Betula papyrifera, commonly called paper birch or canoe birch, is a robust, fast-growing landscaping tree with a most attractive gleaming white bark, which peels off in papery strips to reveal an orange-brown bark underneath. Growing with an oval rounded habit, mature trees develop black markings on the white bark. The ovate, irregularly toothed, dark green leaves turn bright yellow in fall. In spring, tiny yellowish-brown male flowers appear in drooping catkins, while greenish female flowers appear in upright catkins. The female flowers give way to drooping cone-like fruits containing numerous small, winged seeds.

The paper birch received its name from the nature of its bark. Long ago, people would peel layers of the thin, paper-like bark and write on it to send messages. The common name of canoe birch comes from using the bark for making sleek, lightweight canoes among Native Americans and early fur trappers.

Exceptionally hardy, paper birch performs best in cool northern climates where root zones are often covered with snow in the winter and does poorly in the heat and humid areas. Betula papyrifera is one of the best-loved trees of the New England landscape (it is the state tree of New Hampshire), often planted for the beauty of its distinctive bark and golden fall color.

  • Grows up to 50-70 ft. tall (15-21 m) and 25-50 ft. wide (7-15 m).
  • A full sun or part shade lover, this plant is easily grown in medium to wet, well-drained soils. Tolerates a wide range of soils, including sandy or rocky loams but needs consistently moist soils.
  • Perfect as a specimen plant or in borders, cottage gardens, city gardens, and foundation plantings.
  • Low maintenance, this plant needs little pruning. If pruning is necessary, prune during the dormant season and avoid pruning in spring when the sap is running.
  • May be affected by sawflies, aphids, rust, and leaf spot.
  • Propagate by seed, softwood cuttings or grafting
  • Native to North America

Requirements

Hardiness 2 - 7
Heat Zones 1 - 7
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, A1, A2, A3
Plant Type Trees
Plant Family Betulaceae
Genus Betula
Common names White Birch, Paper Birch, Birch
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 50' - 70'
(15.2m - 21.3m)
Spread 25' - 50'
(7.6m - 15.2m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Northeast, Midwest, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming
Tolerance Drought, Deer
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Traditional Garden, Informal and Cottage, City and Courtyard
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Betula populifolia (Gray Birch)
Betula nana (Dwarf Birch)
Betula pumila (Bog Birch)
Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow Birch)
Betula lenta (Sweet Birch)
Betula platyphylla (Japanese White Birch)

Recommended Companion Plants

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ (Tatarian Dogwood)
Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)
Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Painted Doubles’ (Hellebores)
Pennisetum alopecuroides (Fountain Grass)
Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ (Early Crocus)
Galanthus elwesii (Greater Snowdrop)

Find In One of Our Guides or Gardens

Small Trees and Shrubs That Attract Birds
Roots of Life: Exploring the Diverse World of Trees
Green Canopy, Better World: Exploring the Benefits of Trees
Trees that Invite Wildlife to Your Garden
Small Trees, Big Impact: Maximize Your Garden’s Potential
Spectacular Trees for Vibrant Fall Colors: A Gardener’s Guide
Betula (Birch) – What Is Wrong With My Tree?
Betula (Birch) – Pests and Diseases to Watch Out For
Alternatives to Birch Trees Prone to Borer Attacks
Betula (Birch)
Create a Garden with Great Winter Interest
Which Birch Tree to Choose for my Garden?
Underplanting Birches
Shrubs and Trees with Attractive Winter Bark
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 2 - 7
Heat Zones 1 - 7
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, A1, A2, A3
Plant Type Trees
Plant Family Betulaceae
Genus Betula
Common names White Birch, Paper Birch, Birch
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 50' - 70'
(15.2m - 21.3m)
Spread 25' - 50'
(7.6m - 15.2m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Northeast, Midwest, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming
Tolerance Drought, Deer
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Traditional Garden, Informal and Cottage, City and Courtyard
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Betula (Birch)
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Betula (Birch)
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