Landowner Fact Sheets

paper birch Betula papyrifera play

Paper birch has the most extensive range of the North American birches. It is a northern species, occuring from coast to coast across Canada, and extending well into Alaska. It is easily identified by the vibrant white exfoliating bark of mature trees.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Clearcuts work well due to natural seeding and stump sprouting from juvenile paper birch undergrowth. Good seed crops occur approximately every other year.

Paper birch grows on a variety of cool, moist sites, seeding in rapidly on mineral soil. It rapidly establishes following a fire.


A medium sized tree to 70 feet with a pyramidal or irregular crown, often with several trunks.

Timber Value
Paper birch is used for veneer, plywood, pulp and paper, furniture, cabinets, specialty items, fuelwood, and toothpicks, interestingly.

Wildlife Value
Paper birch provides browse material and cover for deer and moose. Seeds, buds, and catkins are eaten by various birds and small mammals. The inner bark is eaten by porcupines.
Attracts voles, shrews, deer, moose, hares, porcupines, redpolls, siskins, chickadees, ruffed grouse, yellow bellied sapsuckers

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Paper birch has high fuel value. A study of 23 other species found paper birch to have the highest caloric value per unit weight, and the third highest per unit volume. Paper birch is the favorite sap source of the yellow bellied sapsuckers - hummingbirds and red squirrels feed at the sapwells created by the sapsuckers. Paper birch bark was used by Native Americans to make birchbark canoes.

Latin Meaning
Betula: Latin (pitch - bitumen is distilled from the bark or Sanskrit "bhurja" (to shine" (bark))) / papyrifera: paper bearing - Egyptian for reed - Greek "papyros" (paper) and Latin "ferre" (to bear)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.