paper birch Betulaceae Betula
Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, ovate in shape, 3 to 5 inches long, with irregularly doubly serrate margins, an acute tip and rounded base (occasionally heart-shaped), green above and paler below.
Flower: Species is monoecious; preformed male catkins near the end of the twig in groups of 2 to 5, 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches long; female are upright, 1 to 1 1/4 inches long, appear or elongate (males) in mid-spring.
Fruit: Cone like, cylindrical 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, deciduous at maturity, releasing elliptical 2-winged nutlets, mature in the autumn and disperse over the winter.
Twig: Slender, dull red-brown, numerous lighter lenticels, lacking wintergreen smell when cut; terminal bud absent, lateral buds are gummy, green and chestnut brown in color, spur shoots present on older growth.
Bark: Reddish brown with light lenticels on very young stems; later turning chalky to creamy white, peeling in horizontal papery strips; brown to black and may be furrowed at base; orange inner bark.
Form: A medium sized tree to 70 feet with a pyramidal or irregular crown, often with several trunks.
Looks like: river birch - European weeping birch - gray birch - water birch
Additional Range Information: Betula papyrifera is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting paper birch.
More Information: Fall Color - Wood - Landowner Factsheet
External Links: USDAFS Silvics of North America - USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database - Horticulture Information - USDAFS Forest Products Lab
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson