Paper birch is one of the most popular plants in the world. There are many types of paper birch trees growing in different countries around the globe. Some of them have been used for centuries, while others were introduced only recently. Most varieties grown today are hybrids between two or three species from different families (Acanthaceae, Passifloraceae and Pinaceae).
The term “birch” refers to any evergreen shrub or small tree with woody stems. They are usually up to 30 feet tall and are sometimes called poplars, elms, willows or ash. All kinds of birch trees produce cones containing tiny seeds that fall off when they dry out. These seeds germinate in warm climates and then develop into new seedlings in cool ones.
Birch trees are often found near streams and lakes, but they can survive in almost any kind of soil. They prefer moist soils with well drained ground. If left alone, they will not spread too far from their original area; however, if disturbed, they may become invasive and cause problems.
The paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is one of the most popular birches, native to Canada and the northern United States. It can grow to a height of 60 feet (18 meters) with a trunk diameter of up to three feet (one meter). The bark is a light brown color marked with vertical white stripes that peel off in thin sheets. Mature trees have small yellow flowers with an unpleasant odor.
Paper birch trees are the source of most North American native bark. The inner bark of the tree is also used by some Native Americans to make tea. This drink is used for a variety of reasons, including upset stomachs, kidney trouble and muscle pain. The inside bark of a young tree can be eaten raw or cooked as a survival food. If eaten regularly, it can prevent scurvy.
In North America, a chemical taken from the paper birch tree is used to waterproof canoes and other things that might get wet. It is also used in the pulp and paper industry. The sap of the paper birch tree can be turned into syrup and sugar. The Ojibway people would make a type of bread from it.
Birches are easy to recognize because of their distinctive horizontal branching and thin bark. The leaves are always a dark green on top and yellowish-green on the bottom.
The paper birch tree usually grows up to around 21 meters tall (70 feet), with a diameter of around 42cm (16.5 inches). The trunk usually grows half a meter in diameter each year, but the first 10 to 20 years the trunk grows only about 1/4 of a meter each year.
There are around 90 varieties of the paper birch tree, which differ in size and color. The bark usually peels off in thin, papery layers. The inner bark can be white, yellow or orange, rarely more than one meter thick. In some types of paper birch, the wood does not have the “birch” smell. There are some types from which you can get turpentine from the sap.
The paper birch is a favorite food of the white-tailed deer. They can eat all parts of the tree, including the leaves and bark. Some animals eat the seeds. These include woodpeckers, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, porcupines, grouse and many others. The seeds also get spread through the droppings of birds that eat them.
Paper birch trees grow best in wet, swampy soil. They need lots of moisture to grow. They can grow in dry areas, too, if there is underground water. Most paper birches grow best in zones 3 through 8. This means they grow from southern Canada to northern Florida and west to the Mississippi River.
Some varieties grow in other parts of North America. They grow in lots of places in Europe and Asia, too.
A good place to plant paper birches is in a wet area that doesn’t drain well. You can plant them along a stream bank or drainage ditch. Just be sure not to plant them too close to the stream or ditch. You want the roots to have plenty of oxygen, too.
After planting, keep the area around the new trees well-watered for the first year or two.
Paper birch trees start producing wood at about 5 to 10 years of age and reach peak production at about 20 to 40 years of age. The wood itself is light, soft, weak and close-grained. It has very little resistance to either splitting or breaking unless great care is taken during its removal from the tree. It is easily worked with tools and finishes well. It has a slight bluish cast.
The wood of the paper birch is used for products that come in contact with food. It is also used for matches, containers, boxes and musical instruments. Musical instruments include guitars, flutes, and drums. It is also used for steamers (containers for cooking foods such as clams and lobsters), coffee mills, folders, napkin and toilet tissue tubes, and book covers.
The wood of the paper birch is also used for firewood and some specialty items such as woodenware, novelties, buttons and knickknacks. It is also used to make syrup.
In the past, wood from the paper birch was used to make canoes, as the wood is light, soft, weak and close-grained. Also, it does not impart any flavor to water or food contained in the container. In the past, the Ojibway people made their canoes from it.
The bark of the paper birch is used for tanning. Native Americans used it for this purpose before thecoming of the white man. Native Americans also used the inner bark of the tree to make a tea that they drank for upset stomachs, kidney trouble, and muscle pain. There is no scientific proof that this works, although it seems likely that it does.
The sap of the paper birch is sweet, and Native Americans sometimes drank it in the spring after it had been boiled. The Iroquois made a dessert by mixing the sap with maple syrup.
The foliage (Green parts of a plant) are sometimes eaten by animals such as moose, caribou, bears, rabbits and deer.
The paper birch is the Maine state tree. It is also the provincial tree of Quebec.
The scientific name for the paper birch is betula papyrifera. The generic name betula is Latin for birch. The word papyrifera means paper maker. It got this name because the Native Americans made their sacred scrolls from its bark. The specific epithet, laevagrapha, comes from the Latin words laevis meaning smooth and graphus meaning graphite or pencil lead.
You can eat the inner bark of the paper birch. It is very nutritious. However, it has a lot of tannins and must be cooked thoroughly before eating. The bark can also be ground into a pulp and used to make paper.
The buds, flowers and seeds (also called nuts) of paper birch are all edible. In spring they can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a taste similar to sunflower seeds.
The sap of the tree can be made into syrup, wine, or beer. It is also sweet enough to eat without any preparation.
The wood of the tree is soft and pale colored. It makes good firewood since it burns hot and quickly. The wood is also relatively easy to carve.
A paper can be made from the bark of the tree. The type of paper is light and very smooth. Native Americans used this bark to make their sacred scrolls.
The white inner bark is very nutritious. It was a staple food for Native Americans and early settlers. It can be eaten raw, but has a lot of tannins and other chemicals which are poisonous. It must be cooked for a long time to remove these. The inner bark can be ground into a pulp and used to make paper.
The inner bark can also be boiled to make a nutritious syrup. It can also be cooked down into a jelly like substance.
The seeds (also called nuts) are edible, but often have no flavor and are very fattening. They can be roasted and eaten as a snack.
The flowers of the paper birch are edible. They have a light taste and can be eaten raw or cooked.
The sap of the tree is called birch syrup. It can be used as a substitute for maple syrup.
The bark of the tree is very flammable and can be used as fire starter.
The wood of the tree is white and smooth. It can be carved into objects or made into furniture.
The inner bark peelings can be woven into sturdy twine or rope.
The wood can be used to make paper. It makes very light and smooth paper.
The wood burns hot and can be used as firewood.
The leaves of the tree can be used as fodder for animals.
Powdered and brewed into a tea, the leaves are said to reduce fever.
The smell of crushed leaves is reputed to drive away mosquitoes.
The tree is said to repel insects.
The tree is a larval host to the winter moth.
The tree is a host plant to several insects including the honey fungus.
The tree is a magnet for aphids.
The tree is a good ornamental tree.
The tree is said to be a good nesting site for birds.
The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of the Vapourer Moth.
The tree is a good shelter for woodland animals.
The tree, while commonly used as a Christmas tree in North America, is not native to that continent.
Its leaves turn golden early in the autumn.
The tree’s sap is highly poisonous.
The bark has been used in Native American religious rituals.
The tree is susceptible to leaf miner, a type of insect.
The tree can be vulnerable to disease.
The seeds are edible and were once used as a condiment.
It has been found that the leaves contain chemicals which can prevent and cure malaria.
The wood has a lovely light color and it is resistant to decay. The wood is soft, but can be carved easily. It has no commercial value due to its rarity and difficulty of harvesting.
The Paper Birch is a thin tree that can easily be confused with the Gray Birch. It gets this name from the papery white bark that peels off in large strips. The White Birch is a smaller tree than the Gray and has finely toothed leaves. The tree is usually covered in clusters of flowers, which are small and white and grow on long stalks. The fruits or seeds grow in drooping clusters and are covered in soft bristles.
The Paper Birch is a very fast growing tree, with new sprouts often growing at a height of one foot each year. As the tree gets older, this growth slows down to around 2-3 feet annually.
The growth of the Paper Birch is dependent on location and conditions. For example, a tree in an area that has lots of space for its roots to grow will grow much slower than a clumped tree that is competing for limited water and nutrients. These trees will also grow much slower in areas that have extended cold periods, as they are not large fans of freezing temperatures.
This plant is very popular with forest animals that eat the young shoots and seeds. For this reason, the tree has a very shallow root system as it spreads its toes out as far as it can to get the most out of the soil nutrients. The tree also has to put up with several types of fungal diseases and insect attacks.
White Birch can live for over 200 years.
It was many centuries ago when the Native Indians used to boil the bark of the Paper Birch to create a kind of paper. The white inner bark was scraped off and placed in running water to remove the sticky sap. It was then beaten and mashed by feet (or sometimes with rocks) before being dried in the sun.
Matches were made by dipping the ends of splints into a mixture of melted sulphur and animal fat. The Paper Birch has an ability to ignite very quickly, hence making it very easy for the Native Indians to start fires.
These days the Paper Birch is not used for anything other than decoration.
The Paper Birch is located in wetland areas and swampy ground, but can also be found in dry rocky areas. It is commonly found along the Canadian coastline and is a popular species of tree for ornamental planting in gardens. The tree needs fertile soil, plenty of water and some shade in order to survive. The Paper Birch can grow quite tall if growing conditions are good, reaching up to 60 meters. The bark of the tree is a reddish brown and the leaves are bright green in color.
The seeds grow in hanging clusters and can be seen in early to mid-summer, with the seeds maturing in late summer. The seeds have a fluffy tail which allows them to be dispersed by the wind.
The Paper Birch is not used for anything other than decoration. It is a common and popular tree to plant in gardens and parks. It is commonly seen along some streets and roadsides in Canada. It can be found in many other parts of the world, wherever it has been introduced.
The Paper Birch is susceptible to leaf blotch disease, caused by the fungus Betula necrotic yellows. This disease first appears as yellow spots on the leaves which then turn brown and fall off. The tree tries to produce new leaves, but they are deformed and smaller than normal. The tree also becomes weaker and may perish. The disease spreads from the top of the tree (where the new leaves grow) to the roots which become infected.
It is spread through the movement of infected soil and branches.
The Paper Birch can be confused with the Gray Birch, which is found in the eastern parts of North America. The Paper Birch has yellow bark that just peels a little from the trunk, while gray birch has gray-brown bark that does not peel at all. The leaves of the Paper Birch grow straight from the branches, whereas those of gray birch are angled and grow from short stalks.
The Paper Birch bark was traditionally used by Native Indians who made dishwashing liquid for cleaning hair and furs by boiling the inner bark and branches with animal fat. They also used it to build canoes by bending the papery strips into a canoe shape and then putting in more wood inside. The Native Indians also used the inner bark as insulation for their winter snowshoes.
In Europe, the Paper Birch was sometimes used as a Christmas tree. The Paper Birch gets its name from the soft paper-like bark which can be stripped off in layers. The fluffy seeds were used in Europe as decorations for weddings and other festive occasions.
The Paper Birch is a tree of the Northern Hemisphere. It grows mainly in wet swampy ground or on riverbanks, in habitats that are not good for most other trees.
Most kinds grow in North America, but there are also some in Europe and Asia.
The Paper Birch is a medium-sized to large tree which can grow up to 40 meters high. It grows fairly quickly, up to 30 centimeters per year in height.
The bark on young trees is smooth, reddish-brown and somewhat scaly. The older bark becomes dark gray and can be up to 1 meter thick.
The Paper Birch does not have prickles like other kinds of birch. The leaves are bright green and have a 2cm long by 1.5cm wide leaf-stalk with a leaf-blade which is 4cm to 7cm long and 2.5cm to 4cm wide. The petiole is 0.5 to 1cm long and is grooved from above the base.
The Paper Birch produces small flowers in early spring between February and April. They are pollinated by the wind and can self-pollinate if the weather does not permit.
The fruit is a small winged capsule, looking a little like a maple seed or raisin. Each seed has a 2mm long feathery tail. The fruit ripens in autumn. It splits open when ripe and the seeds are then scattered by the wind.
The Paper Birch can grow in fairly dry soil, but it grows best in wet ground, especially at the bottom of riverbanks. It is a fairly rare tree in Europe.
It has been introduced to Britain, where it grows mainly in Scotland and Ireland.
In North America, the Paper Birch grows best in Minnesota, Wisconsin, upstate New York and Nova Scotia.
The wood of the Paper Birch was used by Native Indians to make canoes and paddles. It is still used today to make paper, plywood, particle board and other items.
The bark contains a chemical called ‘Tilburizin’, also called ‘Paper Birch Red’ or ‘Pycnogenol’ which is used to make an ointment for skin diseases.
The Paper Birch has been planted in Britain, but does not seem to have become naturalized there. This means that it cannot be regarded as an ‘English’ tree. Perhaps it only grows well in North America, where conditions are closely similar to those of its native land.
The Paper Birch was first introduced into England in 1725. By the 19th century, it was common in gardens and parks, even though it does not grow naturally there. It is sometimes called the ‘European Lacebark’.
The leaves and bark of the Paper Birch were used by Native Indians to treat skin diseases.
The bark is helpful in treating diarrhoea, and a strong decoction can be drunk for chest complaints such as bronchitis and tuberculosis.
It also contains salicin which is an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, similar to aspirin.
A decoction of the bark can also be drunk to reduce internal bleeding, to treat skin diseases and to heal sores.
It is also thought that a strong decoction of the bark can be used as an anesthetic for operations. This decoction should not be drunk by pregnant women.
The Paper Birch is a pretty tree with interesting uses. It grows best in wet ground and riverbanks. It should be planted more often in the British Isles, where the climate is suitable for it.
Sources & references used in this article:
Betula papyrifera Marsh. paper birch by LO Safford, JC Bjorkbom, JC Zasada – Agriculture Handbook, 1990 – books.google.com
Responses of Three Saturniid Species to Paper Birch Grown Under Enriched CO2 Atmospheres by RL Lindroth, GE Arteel, KK Kinney – Functional Ecology, 1995 – JSTOR
Pre-commercial thinning effects on growth, yield and mortality in even-aged paper birch stands in British Columbia by SW Simard, T Blenner-Hassett, IR Cameron – Forest Ecology and …, 2004 – Elsevier
Growth responses of seven major co-occurring tree species of the northeastern United States to elevated CO2 by FA Bazzaz, JS Coleman… – Canadian Journal of …, 1990 – NRC Research Press