Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)


Paper Birch Crown

The Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), also known as the White Birch, is an ornamental tree that can be found in groups throughout the forest around French Hill Pond. It is a member of the Birch Family (Betulaceae), order Fagales. class Magnoliopsida and Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering Plants). The family and genus names are from the ancient Latin word for these trees. The species name comes from "papyrus" and means "paper like." The order name comes from the Latin for "beech tree."  This tree is a deciduous, monoecious angiosperm. The Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) has a variety of uses. The sap can be used to make a beer, wine, syrup or vinegar. The inner bark can be eaten or ground into a meal to use as an additive to bread flour or soup. A tea can be made from the root bark or leaves. The leaves may also be used to make soap and shampoo. The wood of the Paper Birch can be used to make plywood, veneer and fuel pellets. Drugs to treat dysentery, blood diseases, and lactation difficulties are made from parts of this tree. Birch gum is easily chewed and contains terpenes, chemicals that are mild intoxicants.

Paper Birches can grow to about 70 feet (21 meters) with a trunk diameter of up to two feet (60 centimeters). The outer bark is white and the inner bark is orange. Both barks are streaked with horizontal lines. The bark separates into thin, papery strips. The bark was used by native Americans to make baskets, buckets and the skin on canoes.


Paper Birch Bark

The leaves of the paper birch are alternate and ovate to triangular. They are two to four inches (five to ten centimeters) long and 1½ to 2 inches (4 to 5 centimeters) wide. The margins are doubly serrated and the leaf comes to a sharp point. The top of the leaves are light green and yellow-green beneath. At the end of the growing season, the leaves turn yellow. The twigs are reddish-brown.

Paper Birch Leaves

The flowers of the Paper Birch are catkins. The male catkins are yellow. The female catkins are green. male and female catkins are found on the same twig. The catkins form brown, cylindrical cones from 1½ to 2 inches (4 to 5 centimeters) long containing two-winged nutlets that mature and are dispersed in the fall. The following photograph shows Paper Birch catkins.


The root system has a minimum depth of 24 inches (60 centimeters).

This tree has a number of varieties including: Paperbark Birch, Silver Birch, Canoe Birch, Western Paper Birch, Mountain Paper Birch and Kenai Birch.


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