White birch

Silhouette - white birch
  • Latin name: Betula papyrifera Marsh.
  • French name: Bouleau à papier
  • Synonym(s): Paper birch , canoe birch
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 19489
  • NA2 , C2
Description

Leaves

  • Leaf with detail of double-toothed margin - white birch

Form

  • Ovate or triangular, tip-pointed
  • Widest below the middle
  • Base broadly wedge-shaped, rounded, straight or cordate, and smooth-edged
  • 9 veins per side or fewer
  • Preformed leaves become hairless
  • Neoformed leaves remain hairy, especially at the vein axils

Length

  • 5–10 cm

Colour

  • Upper surface dull green
  • Lower surface lighter green

Margin

  • Double-toothed
  • Each vein ends in a large tooth with 3–5 smaller intervening teeth
  • 33–55 teeth per side

Buds

  • Lateral bud and leaf scar - white birch

Form

  • Slender, tapering to a blunt point
  • Resinous

Length

  • 5–7 mm

Colour

  • Scales greenish toward the base
  • Brown toward the tip

Twigs

  • Winter twig - white birch

Form

  • Slender, hairy, developing sparse warty resin glands

Colour

  • Dark reddish-brown

Flowers

  • Pollen catkin in winter condition - white birch

Form

  • Pollen catkins in clusters of 1–3
  • Seed catkins erect

Length

  • Pollen catkins 1–3 cm, 9 cm at pollination
  • Seed catkins 1–2 cm

Width

  • Pollen catkins 2–4 mm in winter

Colour

  • Stigmas pink or red

Structure

  • Monoecious

 

Fruits

  • Fruit scale (left); winged nutlet (right) - white birch

Form

  • Mature seed catkins hang from dwarf shoots
  • Scales variable, usually hairy, with 2 rounded lateral lobes diverging from a short, pointed central lobe

Length

  • Mature seed catkins 3–5 cm
  • Nutlets 1.5–2.5 mm
  • Scales 2–3 mm

Width

  • Nutlets half as wide as long
  • Wings much wider than the nutlet

Timing

  • Fruits and scales shed from September onward

Bark

Form

  • Thin, smooth
  • Often shedding in large sheets

Colour

  • Dark red to almost black on young stems, becoming reddish-brown then bright creamy white
  • Reddish-orange inner bark turns black

Wood

Texture

  • Uniform, odourless

Colour

  • Pale

Uses

  • Tough pliable bark used for making canoes and ornaments

Size

Height

  • In eastern Canada, to 25 m
  • In western Canada, western white birch to 35 m, with peeling orange-white bark, and northwestern white birch to 20 m, with light reddish-brown bark

Diameter

  • To 40 cm

Maximum age

  • 120 years

Tree form

  • Silhouette - white birch

Forest-grown

Trunk

  • Slender, often curved
  • Usually distinct to midcrown or higher

Crown

  • Narrowly oval, open
  • Branches ascending

Habitat

Site

  • Forest edges, lakeshores, and roadsides
  • A wide variety of soils

Light tolerance

  • Not shade-tolerant

Associated species

  • In pure stands and mixed with various species such as other birches, pines, spruce, hemlocks, poplars, maples, balsam fir, northern red oak, and pin cherry

Range

Across Canada

Insects and diseases

Insects and diseases that are found most frequently and/or that cause the most damage in our Canadian forests.

Photos
  • White birch
  • White birch
  • White birch
  • White birch
  • White birch
  • White birch
  • White birch
Distribution map
Distribution map - white birch
Date modified: