Paper Birch – Betula Papyrifera
Native Plants With Winter Interest
“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk;
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
Robert Frost (Excerpt from Birches)
Native Trees for Bergen County
The most noticeable and distinctive characteristic of Betula Papyrifera, a medium sized and native deciduous tree, is its peeling bark, which is accented by the green leaves that turn to a bright yellow in the autumn season. The peeling white bark blends in well with snowy winter landscapes. Paper Birch was the tree utilized by Native American to construct their canoes, henceforth the common name “canoe birch”
The Paper White Birch Tree grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-7. It grows best in part shade/sun but also will do well in full sun. In fall expect to see the leaves transition to a beautiful hue of yellow. Paper birch mixes will with evergreen trees and is a good choice where you want bright fall color. The creamy peeling bark of paper birch provides great fall and winter interest. In the classic application in large landscapes, paper birches are planted in small clumps of three or more located close to a water feature.
Betula Papyrifera attracts a diverse selection of birds and wildlife, making it an excellent choice for a native plant to be utilized within sustainable landscaping practices. Numerous cavity-nesting birds nest in paper birch, including woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and swallows. Pecking holes in the bark, the yellow-bellied sapsucker finds the paper birch a favorite tree. Hummingbirds and red squirrels then feed at sapwells created by sapsuckers. Ruffed grouse eat the catkins (flowers) and buds.
The leaves of this tree grow 2 to 4 inches long with double-toothed margins. The small dry fruit called nutlets form in clusters on drooping catkins that turn brown once matured. The paper birch, being a monoecious tree, bears both male and female catkins. Similar to most other birch trees, the paper birch likes a moist environment, making it the perfect accompaniment to a stream or pond feature in your yard.
Paper birch prefers the part-shade conditions found along margins where other taller trees are growing, but it can grow acceptably if planted in full sun. Fully grown they can reach a height of 50 to 70 feet with a 35 to 40 ft spread. It is an airy tree that provides filtered or dappled shade rather than dense shade like a maple tree provides. It is a fast grower—growing up to 24 inches per year—and can be used for areas of your yard where you need to create an impact quickly.
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