Common Name: White Birch
Scientific Name: Betula papyrifera
Other Names: Paper Birch, Canoe Birch, Silver Birch
Leaf: Deciduous, alternate, simple; ovate or triangular with pointed tip; 5-10cm long; double-toothed with 5-9 straight veins per side ending in a large tooth with several smaller teeth between; widest near the base; stalk yellowish green; upper side dark green, somewhat glossy; underside paler, yellowish green; turn yellow in autumn.
Flower: Male (pollen) catkins brown, in clusters of 1-3, 2-4mm wide and 1-3cm long in winter; shiny dark brown and yellow, and 7-9cm long at pollination; female (seed) catkins greenish, 2cm long, erect or leaning, on short shoots; both male and female catkins on same tree.
Fruit: Mature female (seed) catkins cone-like, cylindrical, yellowish green; 4-5cm long, hanging from short shoots; matures in late summer to autumn when it falls apart and disperses seeds leaving only thin central axis which persists into winter; tiny oval seeds (nutlets) with 2 filmy wings; begin bearing seed at age 15.
Twig: Twigs slender, reddish brown, slightly rough; Buds slender, 5-7mm long, tapering to blunt point, gummy; bud scale greenish toward the base, brown toward the tip.
Bark: Young bark reddish brown, somewhat shiny with prominent lenticels; mature bark white (occasionally there’s intermediate pink stage), composed of many thin papery layers with horizontal lenticels; on removal of the outer bark, the reddish-orange inner bark soon dies, turns black, and divides into flakes.
Wood: Hard, strong, tough, straight-grained, uniform-textured; odorless; not decay-resistant; heartwood light brown to reddish brown; thick sapwood creamy white, with yellow or reddish brown tinge; annual growth ring faint.
Facts About This Tree:
1. White birch is a small to medium-sized tree having a single or multi-stemmed trunk and growing up to 25m tall and 40 in trunk diameter. Lives up to 120 years.
2. To identify a white birch, look for the white bark peeling horizontally in large sheets and double-toothed leaf that is widest below the middle.
3. White birch needs full sunlight, so it finds a home on former forest fire sites, clearcuts, idle farmland, roadsides, and forest fringes. It is one of the pioneer trees to re-establish a new forest after a disturbance. They generate a great amount of nitrogen and phosphorus-rich litter which decomposes rapidly to fertilize the soil. With a short lifespan, they are eventually replaced by longer-living, shade-tolerant trees, having fulfilled their ecological mission in the natural succession toward a climax forest.
4. Native peoples used the tough, pliable bark of paper birch to make birch-bark canoes, sewing (with spruce roots) sheets of bark over white-cedar frames that had been steamed and bent to shape. Fir or pine resin was used for waterproofing. Birch bark also covered wigwams (lodge) and provided baskets, cups, plants and message paper. Strips of bark with lenticels were used as sunglasses for protection from snow blindness.
5. Birch, like willows, contains small amounts of methyl salicylate. The Ojibway (Natives) would wrap a thin layer of its bark around the head to treat headaches, and Saskatchewan’s Woods Cree boiled the inner bark into a lotion for skin rashes and sores. Natives in Quebec drank birch leaf tea for rheumatism and dropsy.
Lat, Long: 43.74069, -79.78756
Diameter (DBH): 25 cm
Last Year Modified: 2015
Carbon Stored in this Tree: 139.293 kg of C
Equivalent CO2: 510.69 kg of C
1. Blouin, Glen. 2001. An Eclectic Guide to Trees East of the Rockies. Erin, ON. Boston Mills Press
2. Linda Kershaw. 2001. Trees of Ontario. Edmonton, AB Canada. Lone Pine Publishing
3. Farrar, J. L. 2007. Trees in Canada. ON. Canadian Forest Service.
4. Photo Credit: Daniel J. Kim; ‘Paper-Birch-leaves’ by Homer Edward Price via Flickr – https://flic.kr/p/axxP6p; ‘Riverview Park (4)’ by Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr – https://flic.kr/p/kpmnZe; ‘Paper Birch Leaves’ by daryl_mitchell via Flickr – https://flic.kr/p/8SyAka
Copyright 2015 Association for Canadian Educational Resources
Look to the east and along Heart Lake Road is a Provincially Significant Wetland. Toronto and Region Conservation, City of Brampton and local volunteers are conducting a road ecology study along this stretch of road. Road ecology is the study of wildlife vehicle collisions and loss of wildlife populations.