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Paper Birch

Betula papyrifera

Leaves: Deciduous. Doubly serrate leaves, 2 to 3 inches 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 to 3 inch 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 to 50 feet high x 20 to 30 feet wide. 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 to 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).

Last Updated: 6/3/22