Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Betula Papyrifera

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Betula papyrifera (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Betula papyrifera (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 30m

Eventual Spread: 12m

Hardiness: 1 – 8b

Family: Betulaceae

Betula papyrifera is a fast growing deciduous tree with an open, upright habit. Its mid green leaves are ovate with serrate margins, up to 8cm long and 6cm broad. Its leaves turn yellow before they fall in autumn. Its trunk may achieve a diameter of up to 80cm. Its white bark is smooth and flakes in horizontal strips to reveal pale orange under bark. Its monoecious flowers are in the form of 3cm long catkins, are wind pollinated and appear at about the same time as its leaves. Its fruit is a cylindrical aggregate, up to 5cm long and it disintegrates upon maturity.

Betula papyrifera, commonly known as the Paper Birch, White Birch, American Birch or the Canoe Birch, is native to northern North America. This tree is a pioneer species.

The etymological root of the binomial name Betula is the old Latin name for the Birch tree. Papyrifera is derived from the Latin papyrifer meaning ‘papyrus bearing’ or ‘paper bearing’, in reference to its peeling bark.

The landscape architect may find Betula papyrifera useful as a specimen tree with attractive winter bark. It can be included in a woodland mix as a nursery crop to provided shelter for the slower growing species which will eventually shade out this species.

Betula papyrifera Bark (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Betula papyrifera Bark (09/02/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Ecologically, Betula papyrifera provides a valuable source of pollen for insects.

Betula papyrifera prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Betula papyrifera requires little maintenance.

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