Paper Birch

Betula papyrifera

Summary 7

Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch, also known as White Birch and Canoe Birch) is a species of birch native to northern North America. It is the provincial tree of Saskatchewan and the state tree of New Hampshire.

Comments 8

Paper Birch is widely regarded as an attractive tree, largely because of its white bark that often peels away into strips. While it may be tempting to pull on these bark strips and collect them as souvenirs, this impulse should be resisted as it damages the tree, causing ugly black scars to develop. Paper Birch has an unusually broad range across Canada and northern United States, which extends into the Appalachian mountains. Across this range, several varieties have been described that are not currently recognized in Illinois. Paper Birch is not the only birch species with attractive white bark. Two European species, Betula pendula (Weeping White Birch) and Betula pubescens (White Birch), are often cultivated as landscape trees in the United States and Canada. These species have white bark that is similar to Paper Birch, but their leaves are smaller in size (1½-2½" in length). A North American species, Betula populifolia (Gray Birch), also has whitish bark, but its leaves are more deltate in shape with long tapering tips.

Range and habitat in illinois 9

Paper Birch is an uncommon native tree that is found in northern Illinois (see Distribution Map). It is more common further to the north. Habitats include upland woodlands and savannas (often sandy or rocky), open disturbed woodlands, stabilized sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and riverbanks. Paper Birch is cultivated as an ornamental landscape tree. Paper Birch is a pioneer species that responds positively to disturbance, especially wildfires that damage dominant canopy trees.

Faunal associations 10

The number of insects that feed on Paper Birch and other birches (Betula spp.) is quite extensive. The caterpillars of the butterflies Nymphalis antiopa (Mourning Cloak), Nymphalis vau-album j-album (Compton Tortoiseshell), and Polygonia faunus (Green Comma) feed on birches, as do the caterpillars of numerous moths (see Moth Table). Other insect feeders include the larvae of Croesus latitarsis (Dusky Birch Sawfly) and other sawflies, the larvae of Agrilus anxius (Bronze Birch Borer) and other wood-boring beetles, Polydrusus impressifrons (Pale Green Weevil), Altica betulae and other leaf beetles, Kleidocerys resedae (Birch Catkin Bug), the leaf-footed bugs Elasmucha lateralis and Elasmostethus interstinctus, Calaphis betulaecolens (Common Birch Aphid) and other aphids, and the leafhopper Erythridula praecisa (syn. Erythroneura praecisa). See the Insect Table for a more complete listing of these species. Paper Birch and other birches are used by vertebrate animals as a source of food, nesting or den habitat, and cover. The following birds eat the seeds of these trees

Damaging agents 11

In the eastern part of its range, large  percentages of paper birch were killed or damaged by a condition  called birch dieback during the late 1930's and 1940's. Symptoms  include dying back of twigs and branches in the crown, loss of  vigor, and eventual death over a period of 5 to 6 years. Trees  most often damaged were shallow rooted and showed root mortality  before crown symptoms. The root mortality was attributed to   environmental conditions (75). Many trees sprouted epicormic  branches in the lower crown and bole and eventually recovered.  The dieback condition has subsided and currently is not  considered an important threat to paper birch (46,63).

    Postlogging decadence-a condition resembling birch  dieback-sometimes develops in residual trees following partial  cutting. The older the stand and the heavier the cutting, the  more likely this condition. For example, trees left as seed trees  in regeneration cuttings are almost certain to decline and die  within a few years. The best way to avoid these problems in  managed stands of birch is to maintain vitality of trees through  periodic thinnings begun at an early age. Also, heavy partial  cuttings in mature previously untreated stands should be avoided  (63).

    The bronze birch borer (Agrilus anxius) is the most  serious insect pest of the paper birch. Usually it attacks  overmature trees or trees in weakened condition. The borer played  a secondary role in the dieback outbreak and undoubtedly caused  the death of some trees that otherwise might have recovered. To  prevent buildup of this insect, weakened and mature trees should  be removed from the stand, and injury to residual trees should be  avoided (21).

    The most serious defoliators of birch are the forest tent  caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria), the birch skeletonizer  (Bucculatrix canadensisella), the birch leafminer (Fenusa  pusilla), birch leaf-mining sawflies (Heterarthrus  nemoratus and Profenusa thomsoni), the birch  casebearer (Coleophora serratella), as well as the  general forest defoliators-the saddled prominent (Heterocampa  guttivitta), and the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), and  in Alaska, the spearmarked black moth (Rheumaptera hastata)  (101). Defoliation alone seldom causes mortality of otherwise  healthy trees. Rather, growth rate is reduced and trees become  susceptible to other damaging agents, particularly the bronze  birch borer, which attacks and causes death of substantial  numbers of trees (21). Cambium miners, such as Phytobia  pruinosa, and ambrosia beetles, such as Trypodendron  betulae or Xyloterinus politus, make injuries that  cause defects in paper birch timber but seldom cause the death of  trees (63,88). The variety cordifolia may be less  susceptible to severe insect attacks than the typical paper  birches (39).

    Micro-organisms that enter the bole of the tree through wounds or  branch stubs cause discoloration and decay in paper birch wood. A  condition known as red heart is a very common defect in some  areas. The wood is darkened in color but may be sound enough for  some uses. Principal decay-causing fungi include Inonotus  obliqua, Phellinus igniarius, and Pholiota spp. (63).  Stem cankers that ruin the tree for timber purposes and make it  unsightly are often caused by Inonotus obliqua and L glomeratus  (87) and Nectria galligena. The root-rotting fungus  Armillaria mellea infects birch trees, causing cracks at  the base of the stem ("collar crack"). Attack by  root-rotting fungi can also result in uprooting by the wind (88).

    Animals that damage paper birch stands include white-tailed deer,  porcupines, moose, and hares. The most serious threat from deer  and moose is over-browsing at the seedling stage, which reduces  the amount of dominant birch in regenerating stands or impairs  the quality of survivors (46,51). Porcupines damage larger trees  by feeding on the inner bark and girdling large branches in the  cr6wn and upper trunk. The yellow-bellied sapsucker pecks rows of  holes through the bark; these are the source of entry for  discoloration and decay organisms and may cause ring shake (88).  If a dense band of holes girdles the stem, all or a major portion  of the crown will die, leading to a weakened state that can  invite attack by the bronze birch borer or decay organisms. In a  Maine study, 51 percent of the paper birch trees damaged by  sapsuckers died. Damage by hares and other small mammals is of  critical importance to the development of planted seedlings (6).  Hares clip or gnaw bark on small birch seedlings causing  reduction in birch stocking (51). Red squirrels may girdle stems  by stripping off the bark (46) or wound the tree by biting it to  obtain sap (88).

    Fire, which is responsible for the establishment of many paper  birch stands, is also one of the most serious enemies of  established stands. Because the bark of paper birch is thin and  highly flammable, even large trees may be killed by moderate  fires (46). However, in Alaska, pure birch stands have little  fuel available, so fires are not common. Hot crown fires in  spruce become slow-burning ground fires when they enter birch  stands; the fire may even go out. In extreme drying of deep  organic horizons in some birch stands, a hot, slow-moving fire  will consume all of the organic matter, leaving the  shallow-rooted birch without support. The otherwise undamaged  trees soon fall over (106). Paper birch is very susceptible to  logging damage during partial harvest treatments using mechanical  techniques. Up to 53 percent of designated crop trees sustained  injuries to root systems, boles, or both during a careful  thinning (69).

    Near Sudbury, Ontario, air pollution with heavy metals from mining  and smelting operations has created a coppice woodland dominated  by paper birch and red maple. Seedlings are repeatedly killed  back and sprout from the base, creating multi-stemmed stools. On  an exposed ridge, 18-year-old paper birch sprouts  averaged 3.3 in (10.8 ft) in height and 5.8 cm (2.3 in) d.b.h. On  a more protected site, 21-year-old paper birch sprouts averaged  5.9 in (19.4 ft) in height and 7.8 cm (3.7 in) d.b.h. (48). In  the greenhouse study previously mentioned, fumigation with S02  caused partial stomatal closure, visible foliar injury, and  reduced growth rate of both river and paper birch. Stomatal   conductance and S02 uptake of flooded seedlings were lower than  controls, but S02 effects were the same whether flooded or not  (68).

    People vandalize trees along roadsides and in parks and picnic  areas by peeling off strips of the outer papery bark. The trees  are seldom killed but always carry unsightly scars. In areas of  great scenic value, the exposed inner bark can be painted white  to disguise the wound.

Growth form (according to raunkiær life form classification) 12

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More info for the term: phanerophyte


Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites 13

More info for the term: layering

Paper birch is useful for long-term revegetation and soil stabilization
of severely disturbed sites.  It is used to reclaim coal, lignite, rock
phosphate, slate, gold, oil-shale, bauxite, and other mine spoils
[52,70].  Best results are obtained by planting 2-year-old or older
bare-root or containerized stock [52].  It is occasionally transplanted
as wildlings.  Methods for collecting, extracting, cleaning, storing,
and sowing paper birch seed to produce nursery grown seedlings are
available [11,26,70].  Paper birch may also be propagated by grafting,
air layering, rooting of cuttings, or tissue-culture techniques [57].

Comments 14

Betula papyrifera is a well-known tree of the northern forest with its paper-thin, white, peeling bark. The bark, which has a high oil content and is consequently waterproof, was used for a wide variety of building and clothing purposes by the American Indians, including the covering of the familiar birch bark canoe. It is still used for various purposes, including basketmaking, in Canada and Alaska. Variants having more or less close, dark brown bark ( B . papyrifera var. commutata ) occur locally throughout the wide range of this species; this characteristic appears to be largely environmentally caused. The species is an important successional tree, coming up readily after fires, logging, or the abandonment of cultivated land. The relatively soft, whitish wood is used extensively for such items as clothespins, spools, ice cream sticks, and toothpicks, as well as for pulpwood for paper. 

 Betula papyrifera is the state tree of New Hampshire.

Native Americans use Betula papyrifera medicinally in enemas, to shrivel the womb, to alleviate stomach cramps and pain, and as a tonic (D. E. Moerman 1986).

Betula × sandbergii Britton is a fairly common hybrid, occurring where the ranges of the parents ( B . papyrifera Marshall and B . pumila Linnaeus) come into contact. In most vegetative features it is intermediate between the parental conditions (K. E. Clausen 1963; C. O. Rosendahl 1928).

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Marie Studer, some rights reserved (CC BY), uploaded by Marie Studer
  2. (c) Howard, R.A., some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) "<a href="""">ND State Soil Conservation Committee</a>. <a href="""">USDA NRCS ND State Office</a>. United States, ND.", some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) "<a href="""">ND State Soil Conservation Committee</a>. <a href="""">USDA NRCS ND State Office</a>. United States, ND.", some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  5. (c) Tamara Horová, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  6. (c) L S, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  7. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  8. (c) John Hilty, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  9. (c) John Hilty, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  10. (c) John Hilty, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
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  12. Public Domain,
  13. Public Domain,
  14. (c) Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

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