Paper Birch - <em>Betula papyrifera</em> - Zone 1 -

Paper Birch - Betula papyrifera - Zone 1

The paper birch, or white birch, is a fast-growing, medium sized deciduous tree native to the northern regions of North America. It grows best in well drained soils and with plenty of sunlight. It is a pioneer species and one of the first trees to recolonize areas disturbed by logging or forest fires.

1-3 Feetsold-out$19.00$0.00
3-5 Feetsold-out$23.00$0.00

The Tree

The paper birch is a relatively short-lived tree with a typical life span of 80 to 100 years, rarely exceeding 140 years. These trees can reach heights of 25 meters with the trunks reaching diameters of 60 centimeters. The young tree’s bark is a glossy reddish/brown and as it ages the bark becomes chalky white and peels off in thin paper like curls. The name papyrifera meaning paper-bearing derives from this paper like quality of the mature bark. This species does not tolerate shade and while capable of growing in a wide variety of conditions, thrives on well-drained, moist sites. Paper birches are generally found in mixed hardwood-coniferous forests or in pure stands in areas disturbed by logging or forest fires. These trees can handle very cold temperatures, even thriving in Alaska, and prefer locations where the summers do not get too hot.  


Ecologically, the paper birch is an important pioneer in the development of forests. Its spreading shallow roots stabilize the soil and provide the necessary conditions for the ecological succession of other species. It also provides a principal winter food source for many animals including: moose, white-tailed deer and snowshoe hares. The attractive appearance of its bark makes it a popular choice for ornamental use. The wood is light, strong and workable and when well seasoned makes excellent firewood. Commercially it is one of the most widely used woods for veneer and plywood in addition to numerous other uses.  The bark of the paper birch was use by the Native Americans for constructing the exterior of canoes and dwellings. It also makes an excellent fire starter as it ignites even when wet and burns very hot. Even the sap has its value as it is used both medicinally and to make sap by a process similar to that of maple syrup. Many people choose to inoculate their trees with the chaga mushroom, a medicinal fungus which grows almost exclusively on birch trees. This fungus is the most nutritionally dense of all tree growths and is renowned in cultures worldwide for its myriad medicinal qualities.

Height at maturity25 meters (82 feet)
Hardiness zone1
SoilMoist but well drained
Sun / shadeSun or partial shade
Average fruit weightn/a
Fruit colorn/a
Years to bear fruitn/a
Latin nameBetula papyrifera
Average diameter of fruitn/a
Also known asWhite Birch, Canoe Birch, Silver Birch