Paper Birch

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The paper birch, known as a white birch, silver birch, or canoe birch, rarely lives more than 140 years. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree that thrives in well drained, sandy loams on cool moist sites and is primarily noted and praised for its beautiful white bark. This paperlike bark has traditionally been used by the North American Natives for canoe construction, hence its alternate name. It is the state tree of New Hampshire.
Natalia Salinas and Dhiksha Balaji
Collected Data
Date of tree entry: 
64.23 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.68 m

The outer bark is characterized by its smooth, thin, and white appearance, with the inner bark possessing an orange coloration. Dark brown/black marks can be seen on the trunk as well. The attractiveness of the paper birch's white bark makes it a highly coveted species for ornamental planting and landscaping. However, young paper birches have bark that remains golden or brown in color until about age 10 to 12. Those seeking birches for ornamental usage therefore prefer to use European birches or other species that develop white bark at earlier ages. [5]
Twigs & branches
The trunk divides into several low arching branches with a small, open crown of spreading and ascending branches. While these are the characteristic white that a paper birch is known for, both twigs and subsquent branchlets are slender and a reddish-brown shade. [2]
The leaves of the paper birch are short, broad, and flat, with a symmetrical base surrounded by fine, double teeth. The leaves are alternate, ovate, and on average 1-5 inches long and 2-4 inches broad. The leaf buds, which can be seen at the time of this data collection, are conical, small, and green-colored with brown edges. [2]
Reproductive Structures
The flowers of the paper birch are wind-pollinated catkins. Catkins are cylindrical flower clusters with inconspiciously colored, small petals. Typically, these catkins are 1.5 inches long. [6]
The fruit of the paper birch is small and dry. It does not split open when ripe, maturing in the fall. The mature fruit is made up of many tiny winged seeds that reside in the catkin, the flower of the tree. [4]
  • Early Spring
  • Summer
  • Summer
Natural range of distribution: 
The paper birch typically grows within forests or just at the edges of forests. It does not flourish in climates with especially hot temperatures. It is found mostly in the northern regions of North America. [4]
Origin, history, and uses: 

The paper birch is an easily recognizable species because of its bright, white bark. Its striking appearance leads the paper birch to often be planted for ornamentation. The paper birch is typically recognized for its white color, but it makes quite the impression by revealing a richness of colors; its bark curls and peels off in large rolls once it matures, revealing a soft pink color on the inside. In the fall, it develops a stunning golden array of leaves. Beavers eat the pink bark on the inside and snowshoe hare feed on young seedlings. Robert Frost wrote of the Paper Birch in his poem “Birches” from 1916, remembering how he used to swing on its boughs in his childhood. Many other people have associations with this tree as well. People used to peel layers of the bark and use it like paper, to write and send messages. It has also been called the white birch and the canoe birch, as Native Americans and early fur trappers used this tree to build lightweight canoes. Today, it is the state tree of New Hampshire. It can also be used in furniture, flooring and popsicle sticks. [1] [6]

In April, buds burst and flowering begins. Late April/early May is a time for leafing out and for pollen to begin shedding, after which seedfall finally begins in August. Leaves start to change color in September and fall from then on until October.
1. Arbor Day Foundation. “Paper BirchBetula Papyrifera.” Paper Birch on the Tree Guide at Arbor Day Foundation, 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
2. “Betula Papyrifera - Paper Birch.” Common Tree Species of the Northwest Forest. Web. <>. 
3. “Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from “Atlas of United States Trees” by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and Other Publications).” Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center. USGS, 9 Jan. 2013. Web. <>.
4. New England Wildflower Society. “Betula Papyrifera Marsh.” Betula Papyrifera (paper Birch): Go Botany. New England Wildflower Society, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.
5. Safford, L. O., John C. Bjorkbom, and John C. Zasada. “Betula Papyrifera Marsh.” Betula Papyrifera Marsh. Web. <…
6. Wikipedia. “Betula Papyrifera.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.
Media and Arts

Paper Birch

“This one is ours,” we said as we stood

Under this Tree, feeling small as we could

She stands tall and white, bright like the moon

“We’ll be back,” say we, “back very soon.”

One each extra visit, she grows in our hearts

More graceful, more lovely, but she was from the start

She guards the proud tombstones, a symbol of being

With wisdom and joy, there’s no end to her seeing

What does it mean for this tree to see all?

She stands here, a witness to the rise and the fall

Of a whole human life, or of two or a few

A record of history, not just for us humans, but remember Nature too

The tree is a being unattached to you or me

The tree is a being with its own history

A lifespan, a story, a phenology

This paper birch is special, we all can agree