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Paper birch

  • Native Plants,
  • Trees and Shrubs
Betula papyrifera
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
Betula papyrifera.
  • Betula papyrifera.
  • Betula papyrifera.



Origin and description

The genus name is from the Celtic word betu, which means “bright” or “shining,” referring to the tree's white bark. The name papyrifera is from the Greek word papyrus, or “paper,” referring to the bark, which is paper-thin and peels off easily. The bark of birch trees is not always white, but in most cases is fine textured.

Short, open trunk and irregular crown with large ascending branches. Airy foliage, green, turning yellow in fall. Catkin flowers in spring, followed by hanging cone-shaped fruit in summer. Few large, deep, lateral roots. Moderate growth. Birches planted with conifers always make a nice contrast. Height: 18 m. Spread: 10 m.

Species, cultivars and related plants

Betula papyrifera var. kenaica: this variety differs from others in the species in that it has a more regular shape and can grow to 13 m. Very straight trunk with brown and black fissures and large horizontal branches forming an open, rounded and very regularly shaped crown. Slow growing. Fairly resistant to birch miner. Zone 3.


Birches are found in all temperate and arctic regions in the Northern Hemisphere. The genus includes some 50 species of trees and shrubs, 10 of them native to Canada.

Common name

Paper birch / Canoe birch

Latin name (genus)

Betula papyrifera

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Betulaceae

Growing conditions

Birch is a pioneer species that needs an enormous amount of light. Large numbers of birches are found in open, disturbed sites: after a forest fire, clearcutting or land clearing, for instance. These trees have a relatively short lifespan, about 100 to 150 years. Paper birches are completely hardly, but adapt poorly to urban conditions. They need to be given plenty of space to spread. They prefer sandy, slightly acidic soil, but will also grow in heavier and slightly alkaline soil.

Easy to grow?

This species is not particularly demanding in terms of soil, but adapts poorly to urban conditions.


  • Zone 2
Pests and diseases

Birch leafminers

Physiological disorders

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