Western Red Birch (Water Birch)

Betula occidentalis   

Leaves: Deciduous. Leaves are 1-2" long, ¾-1½" wide, with an ovate or somewhat rounded, slightly heart-shape. They are pointed at the tip with a singly or doubly serrate leaf edge and somewhat rounded base. Dark green color above, light yellow-green beneath. Dull yellow color in fall.

Bark/Twigs: Bark is a very characteristic thin, dark, shiny reddish-brown to almost purple color, smooth but broken by distinct, long, horizontal lines called lenticels. Twigs are light green when young, becoming dark red-brown when older.

Flowers/Fruit: Inconspicuous flowers.  Fruit is a small, winged nutlet arranged in a cone-like, cylindrical, scaly catkin that hangs down, 1-1¼" long. Matures in fall.

Mature size and shape: Medium. 25-35’h. Graceful multi-trunked tree with slender spreading and pendulous branches.

General information/special features: Utah native. Plant in full sun to light shade. Intermediate shade tolerance. Prefers abundant water, but may survive on drier sites. Occurs naturally in moist areas along streams and lakes.  Able to withstand moderately high soil pH.

Landscape use and Maintenance: Ornamental multi-trunked tree. Slow growing rate. Average maintenance. This tree that does well only if very hot, dry sites are avoided.  Probably more borer resistant that other birches.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8 Family/Origin: Betulaceae – Birch. Native to much of the western U.S. and southern Canada.  Utah's only native birch.

Campus use: Uncommon. Can be found on east side of Sculpture Building (Bld 39) and north of Art Building (Bld 38).

Paper Birch

Betula papyrifera

Leaves: Deciduous. Doubly serrate leaves, 2-3” long, oval to triangular or wedge-shaped, tapering to a point. Medium to dark green color. Leaves emerge in early spring. Yellow or yellow-green fall color.

Bark/Twigs: Bright chalky white, thin, smooth bark with horizontal black spots (lenticels). The bark peels off in long characteristic layers. Trunk develops black furrows with age. Good visual interest in winter.

Flowers/Fruit: Bright green, 2-3” long catkins appear in the spring. Small nutlets are produced that turn brown and drop in the fall.

Mature size and shape: Medium to large size. 40-50’h x 20-30’w. Branches have a loose pyramidal form overall and a narrow canopy. The tips of the branches droop downward.

General information/special features: Plant in full sun. Performs much better in cool, moist soils. Hot dry soils are associated with borer infestations and pests. Tolerates alkaline soil. Used by indigenous groups to make canoes, now birch is used to make toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and tongue depressors.

Landscape use and Maintenance: Large ornamental landscape tree. Beautiful next to water features or benches. Medium to fast growing rate. Average maintenance. Transplants easily. Prune in summer. Is susceptible to diseases and insects including birch bores, especially when stressed.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-7

Family/Origin: Betulaceae – Birch. Native to North America. The most widespread of the birches.

Campus use: Somewhat uncommon. Can be found west of Navel Science (Bld 43) or south of the Park Building (Bld 1).

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