Paper Birch

Betula Papyrifera 


With its eye-catching white bark and beautiful bright green foliage that turns golden in autumn, paper birch is one of North America’s most far-spread native tree species. The ever-present tree grows all across Canada and southern Alaska as well as most northern states in the US. Other paper birch populations can be found in parts of Colorado, Montana, the eastern Cascades, the Great Lakes states, and North Carolina. 

You will find paper birch scattered among the forested slopes of mountain ranges from low valleys to subalpine stands. While this elegant species is relatively short-lived in tree years (living around 140 years), it is also fairly resilient and acclimate. The paper birch has evolved to flourish best in cold climates, moist, well-drained soils and especially in forests with open canopy as it is fairly shade-intolerant. However, it’s thin canopy makes for a great pairing with understory species that enjoy dappled sunlight. Check out the shrubs and groundcovers that we have available as well. Paper birch is also a great species for planting on disturbed sites, as it is able to flourish while also rehabilitating and restoring nutrients to the soil.

birch illustration

Looking Up the Paper Birch Tree

Tracy Levesque

In its Latin name, betula translates to “pitch” and papyrifera translates to “paper bearing.” Its name is given due to the white, flakey, paper-like bark that peels off in durable, waterproof sheets. Traditionally the bark has been crafted into baskets, mats, baby carriers, and also canoes by many Native American tribes and is commonly referred to as “canoe birch.” The strong, flexible wood was also ideal for working into weapons such as spears, bows, and arrows. 

4596896443_923cbba77d_bAnother little known fact about the paper birch is that much like the bigleaf maple, the sap can be collected and made into a delicious syrup. While this can be used on pancakes and waffles like maple syrup, it also makes delicious sauces, glazes, and dressings to pair with salmon, pork, root vegetables, and other savory dishes. For a unique and delectable dessert, birch syrup can also be used to flavor ice cream, soft drinks, beer, and wine. Here is one great resource if you would like to learn more about paper birch. 

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