Betula papyrifera
Family: Betulaceae
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White Birch Tree





Angiosperm, Dicot, deciduous
Learn about Dicot Characteristics


White Birch trees usually grow to about 20 meters tall, but in exceptional cases have been found to grow up to 35 meters. The Trunk of the tree is about 80 centimeters in diameter, and the leaves tend to be 5 to 12 centimeters long and 4 to 9 centimeters wide.

Identifying Features:

When the tree is young, the bark is a dark reddish-brown color, and tends to be fairly smooth. As the tree matures the bark turns chalky-white, and large, verticle, dark brown lenticels are formed. The mature bark peels away easily, and the wood of the tree is very strong and flexible. The twigs of the White Birch are practically tasteless and odorless.


White Birch is found in virtually every part of Canada, the only exception being Nunavut. It is also commonly found in the Northern United States, more so on the Eastern side of the US. It is found in many different climates, from boreal to humid, and is not effected heavily by the amount and pattern of precipitation. Thrives best in moist, cool climates. It can grow in a wide variety of terrains and soil types, including rolling uplands, floodplains, open slopes, avalanche tracks, swamp margins, and bogs.
Click Here to see a distribution map of White Birch in North America


This tree reproduces through seeds and vegatatively through sprouts. The fruit of the white birch are small winged nutlets, usually about 0.06" long and 0.03" wide. One tree will form both male and female catkins. Male catkins are formed in the fall, then extend to their full length at about 4 inches in the spring. Female catkins are formed during the spring. From September to November is when all the seeds are shed from the tree, dispersed by wind, and germination takes place the following spring. The seedlings require moderate sunlight and a soil PH greater than five in order to grow. The white birch begins producing seeds at age fifteen, and reaches optimum seed production from 40 to 70 years of age.

Water/Sun Requirements:

White Birch is shade-intolerant, meaning that it needs abundant sunlight to thrive. This is why it can be found commonly in open areas of land that have been cleared by logging or fire. New White Birch trees are rarely found in old forests, unless there is an opening in the foliage to allow ample sunlight. Although White Birch trees can grow in areas that have relatively low amounts of water, they thrive in areas with large amounts of precipitation.

Special Adaptations:

White Birch is a successional tree, meaning that seedlings will begin to grow very quickly after a fire. Birch seedling will readily germinate on fire-prepared seedbeds. The Winged Nutlets of a White Birch are also very adapitve, as their double wings allow them to be carried by wind up to 200 feet away from the parent tree. The canopy of the White Birch is very moist, making it extremely resistant to fire.

Other Info:

  • The bark of the White Birch has a very high oil content, which makes it extremely waterproof. Because of this, White Birch bark has been used by commonly as the exterior of canoes. Learn More
  • White Birch Bark is also very useful for fire starting, as the bark will burn easily even when wet.
  • White Birch Sap is used to make syrup, wine, beer, and medicinal tonics.

Reference Sources/Links:

Created by Keith R. 2007