Guide to the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

“When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.”

-“Birches”, Robert Frost

The Paper Birch loves shady, moist areas where its roots will stay cool. Advise your customers to mulch the base of a sapling or mature tree to lock in moisture. This lovely tree requires little maintenance and has a rich folklore among native people and early settlers. As Frost’s poem, Birches, connotes, children love to play beneath its boughs and explore the tree’s unique features.

Residential HOAs and condo boards often plant Paper Birches due to their light canopy, which doesn’t block out all the sunlight. In addition, properties on the edge of wooded areas often require trees such as Paper Birches to create a transition zone. Many customers use this tree to protect their yard from leaves, branches, and debris blowing in from the forest.

How Do You Identify a Paper Birch? Unique Features to Look for

Paper Birch trees have ghostly white bark with pink and black highlights. The tree’s light fall foliage makes a shimmery sound in the autumn wind, and the bark peels away in long strips. Additionally, yellow or orange leaves drop from the tree’s thin branches throughout the fall. Tree sparrows and sapsuckers love to make their homes in Paper Birch trees, which birdwatchers will appreciate.

Here are just a few of the features that make the Paper Birch so different from other deciduous trees in Ontario:

  • Short, broad leaves taper into a point and have a border with double-tooth patterns. The leaves grow between one to five inches in length and two to four inches wide.
  • Paper Birches have low-arching branches in a small, open crown.
  • The tree has small, dry fruit that appears, and tiny, winged seeds in the fall.

Check out our catalogue of a wide selection of Paper Birches and many other trees.

Folklore and Interesting Facts about the Paper Birch Tree

According to the Ojibwe people, there’s a very specific reason birchbark turns black. Waynaboozhoo, a young Ojibwe boy, once turned himself into a rabbit, according to a traditional legend. While in his disguise, he tricked the Thunderbird deity into providing the boy with fire. Waynaboozhoo stole an ember from the Thunderbird’s fireplace and fled, followed closely by the angry Thunderbird. The Paper Birch protected the boy from the deity’s thunderbolts. However, the thunderbolts burnt the Paper Birch’s bark, which remains black to this day.

What is Paper Birch Used for?

The Paper Birch has had many uses throughout history, including the following products:

  • Paper
  • Canoes
  • Flooring
  • Furniture

Our blog contains tons of interesting facts about trees and tree care. You can browse through our planting guide for tips on planting trees.

Where do Paper Birch Trees Grow? How Fast Do They Grow?

Paper Birches thrive in rural settings because they are sensitive to pollution. Wild birches often grow along streams or lakes. Nurseries may sell these trees in sets of three, and the tree’s low branches and changes throughout the year make it interesting to watch all year long. You can expect a Paper Birch tree to grow at a medium to fast rate. A healthy tree can achieve an annual height increase within the range of 13″ to 24″, or sometimes even more than that.

Contact Dutchmaster Nurseries for more information on Paper Birches and other trees that do well in Ontario’s unique climate.

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