paper birch

(Betula papyrifera var. papyrifera)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

paper birch

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

Common

Habitat

Moist to dry. Shade intolerant.

Flowering

Late April to early June

     
Flower Color

Green

     
Height

40 to 65

     

Identification

This is a medium-sized, fast-growing, deciduous tree. It rises often on a single trunk, sometimes 2 or more trunks, from a shallow root system. It can reach up to 98 tall and 32 or more in diameter at breast height, though in Minnesota mature trees are usually no more than 60 tall and 24 in diameter. It is short-lived, usually surviving no more than 120 years, though older individuals can be up to 250 years old.

The trunk is slender, often curved, and often slightly leaning. It is distinct into the middle part of the crown or higher with few lower branches. The crown is pyramidal on young trees, narrowly oval and open on mature trees. The branches are ascending.

The bark on trees less than 5 years old is thin, smooth, and reddish-brown or orangish-brown, with conspicuous, pale, horizontal lenticels. On mature stems the bark is bright, creamy white with prominent, dark lenticels. The white bark is thin and peels in papery, horizontal strips. It often sheds in large sheets. The inner bark is reddish-orange. At the base of older trees the bark often becomes gray and deeply furrowed.

First-year twigs are slender and hairy at first, becoming dark reddish-brown with sparse, warty lenticels. Second-year twigs are hairless. Freshly cut twigs do not have a wintergreen odor or taste.

The buds are slender, 3 16 to ¼ long, tapered, and hairless. They are widest at the base and taper to a blunt point. The are covered with chestnut-brown scales that are often greenish at the base. They are covered with resin, making them gummy to the touch.

The leaves are deciduous and alternate. They are borne on shoots; 2 or sometimes 3 from a short, lateral shoot, and 1 from a longer shoot at the end of the twig. Each leaf is on a to 1 long, usually hairless leaf stalk (petiole). The petiole is not flattened. The leaf blade is egg-shaped, 2 to 4 long, and 1¼ to 2½ wide. It is rounded, broadly angled, or nearly straight across at the base. It tapers to a point at the tip with straight or concave sides along the tip. The upper surface is dark green, dull, and hairless or nearly hairless. The lower surface is pale green and hairy along the main vein and in the vein axils. The margins are doubly-toothed with sharp, forward pointing teeth. There are 35 to 55 teeth per side. In autumn the leaves turn light yellow.

Male and female flowers are borne on the same tree and on the same branch. Male catkins are preformed in the late summer. They droop singly or in groups of 2 or 3 from the tips of leafless twigs, and sometimes from lateral shoots. They are ¾ to 1 long the first year, growing to 1½ to 4 long the following spring.

Female catkins appear singly on leafy, lateral branchlets on current-year twigs. They are to ¾ long and erect.

The fruit is a cylinder-shaped cone containing many tiny, two-winged nutlets (samaras). It ripens in mid-August to mid-September. The nutlets are dispersed in the fall and early winter.

 
Similar
Species

Mountain paper birch (Betula cordifolia) leaf blade has a heart-shaped base.


Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 28.

Record

The champion paper birch in Minnesota is on private property in or near Hibbing, in St. Louis County. In 2022 it was measured at 55 tall and 121 in circumference (38½ in diameter).

 
Comments

In 1988-89 Minnesota lost as much as 20% of its paper birch trees due to drought.


Taxonomy

Family:

Betulaceae (birch)

 

Subfamily:

Betuloideae

 

Genus:

Betula

 

Subgenus:

Betula (typical birches)

 
Synonyms

 

 
Common
Names

canoe birch

paper birch

silver birch

white birch


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

axil

The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.

 

catkin

A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.

 

lenticel

A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.

 

petiole

The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.

 

samara

A dry fruit consisting of a seed attached to a papery wing; one seeded in Elms and Ashes, two-seeded in Maples.

       

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  paper birch   paper birch
       

Bark

  paper birch   paper birch
       

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  paper birch    
       
       

 

Camera

     

Slideshows

   
  Betula papyrifera
Blake C. Willson
 
  Betula papyrifera  
 
About

Paper Birch

 
     
  Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
Bill Keim
 
  Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)  
     
  Paper Birch Tree Video
valski716
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 13, 2009

A movie about The Paper Birch Tree. It is found in Northern Illinois, as well as other places in the Norhtern Hemisphere.

 
     

 

slideshow

     

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Other Videos

 
  Trees with Don Leopold - paper birch
ESFTV
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Sep 23, 2011

No description available.

 
     
  how to identify Betula papyrifera
Laura Deeter
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Oct 2, 2008

short movie on the key id features

 
     
  Fire with Wet Birch Bark and Firesteel
survivethewild
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 23, 2010

http://survivethewild.us/ - Talking about my last video and some questions about it from YouTubers, different types of birch bark, and starting fire with just wet birch bark from a paper birch and firesteel.

 
     

 

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