Paper Birch

Paper birch tree

The unique, peeling white bark of paper birch (Betula papyrifera) make it a year-round standout and homeowner favourite. Available single or multi-stemmed, this mid-sized native tree stands gracefully in snowy or summer landscapes.

Throughout the winter, paper birch provide seeds and shelter for many birds like chickadees, juncos and redpolls. In warmer weather, yellow-bellied sapsuckers will peck through the bark to reach the sap beneath, and hummingbirds will often visit these sapwells for a sweet treat. 

Paper birch are also a great host for butterfly caterpillars, such as the mourning cloak, and many moth caterpillars. These crawling critters make an excellent high-protein lunch for birds such as nuthatches, blue jays and brown creepers. Always keep your binoculars handy so you don’t miss out on the action.

Unfortunately, paper birch are susceptible to insects such as bronze birch borer, as well as bacteria and fungi. Take note of any abnormalities and contact a certified arborist to keep your tree in optimal health. Avoid pulling off the curling strips of bark. This can weaken or damage the tree.

Plant in a low-traffic location with full sun and sandy to loamy soils. While paper birch can tolerate drought, some salt and nearby black walnut trees, its roots do not tolerate soil compaction. They transplant best in early spring, so plan now.

Pair with evergreens such as balsam fir or eastern white pine to show off the white bark, or with other deciduous trees such as red maple or pin cherry. The light shade they cast allows a variety of wildflowers and groundcovers to grow beneath. Use CVC’s woodland plant list to find native plants that prefer similar conditions.

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