Grey birch

Silhouette - grey birch
  • Latin name: Betula populifolia Marsh.
  • French name: Bouleau gris
  • Synonym(s): Wire birch
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 19497
Description

Leaves

  • Leaf with detail of  venation and distinct double-toothed margin - grey birch

Form

  • Triangular
  • Tip long-pointed, tapering
  • Base almost straight across
  • Pendulous 
  • Upper surface rough
  • Lower surface shiny
  • Veins 6–9 per side
  • Preformed leaves hairless
  • Neoformed leaves slightly hairy

Length

  • 4–7 cm

Colour

  • Upper surface shiny dark green
  • Lower surface lighter green

Margin

  • Each vein ends in a large tooth
  • 40 (18–47) teeth per side, of 2 distinct sizes
  • Larger teeth sometimes appear to be small lobes
  • Toothless near petiole

Petiole

  • Slender

Buds

  • Lateral bud and leaf scar - grey birch

Form

  • Pointed, gummy, often hairy

Colour

  • Uniform light brownish-grey

Twigs

  • Winter twig - grey birch

Form

  • Slender, hairless, with many resin glands

Colour

  • Dark brown to grey

Flowers

Form

  • Pollen catkins usually solitary

Length

  • About 2 cm in winter, 6–10 cm at pollination
  • Seed catkins 1–1.5 cm

Structure

  • Monoecious

Fruits

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

Form

  • Mature seed catkins blunt-tipped, semi-erect
  • Nutlets almost hairless
  • Scales densely hairy on the inner side with 2 broad recurved lateral lobes and a very short central lobe

Length

  • Mature seed catkins 1.5–2 cm
  • Scales 2–3 mm

Width

  • Mature seed catkins narrow
  • Wings much wider than the nutlet

Timing

  • Shed in late autumn and early winter

Bark

Form

  • Thin, smooth when young
  • With age peels with difficulty into small, thin, rectangular plates
  • Triangular patches often form below the branches

Colour

  • Dark reddish-brown when young, becoming dull chalky-white
  • Triangular patches black

Size

Height

  • To 12 m

Diameter

  • To 15 cm

Maximum age

  • 50 years

Tree form

  • Silhouette - grey birch

Open-grown

Trunk

  • Usually curved and leaning
  • Distinct nearly to the top of the crown

Crown

  • Narrow, irregular, open, with many slender branches
  • Older branches often S-shaped

Habitat

Site

  • Sandy or gravelly soils of any moisture regime
  • Often in clumps

Light tolerance

  • Not shade-tolerant

Associated species

  • In pure stands on abandoned pastures and areas recently cut or burned
  • Eventually replaced by more tolerant and longer-lived species

Range

Maritime provinces

Insects and diseases

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

Photos
  • Grey birch
  • Grey birch
  • Grey birch
  • Grey birch
  • Grey birch
  • Grey birch
Distribution map
Distribution map - grey birch
Date modified: