Paper Birch

Betula papyrifera Marsh.




All photographs are copyrighted and are the property of E. Brunner.

Family:  Betulaceae

Native or Introduced to Illinois:  native

Leaf:  Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, ovate in shape, with coarsely doubly serrate margins, an acute tip and rounded base.

Flower:  Preformed aments, male near the end of the twig in 2's or 3's, 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches long. Female flowers are upright, 1 to 1 1/4 inches long. Flowers April to June.

Fruit:  Cone like, cylindrical 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, deciduous at maturity, releasing elliptical 2-winged nutlets. Matures in the autumn, disperses over winter.

Twig:  Slender, dull red-brown, lacking wintergreen smell when cut. Terminal bud absent, lateral buds are gummy, chestnut brown in color. Spur shoots present on older growth.

Bark:  Smooth, thin, chalky-to-creamy white; peeling in horizontal papery strips. Brown to black and furrowed at base. Orange inner bark.

Size/Form/Shape:  A medium-sized tree with a pyramidal or irregular crown.

County Distribution Map for Illinois:  


Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites:

The information below is from the National Arbor Day Foundation.  This information can be viewed in the original (source) form by visiting The National Arbor Day Foundation at

Sun Exposure:  This birch does well in full sun or partial shade.
Soil Type:  The Paper Birch grows in acidic, loamy, moist, clay, sandy, well-drained soils.
Moisture:  This tree thrives with normal moisture, but has some drought tolerance.
Growth Rate:  This tree grows at a medium to fast growth rate.

Hardiness Zones:  2 - 7
This birch can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the zone map.