Paper Birch: The Quixotic Novelty

paper birch

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli, Flickr

(Betula papyrifera)

Before it became frowned upon as an act of vandalism, people would peel layers of the thin, paper-like bark and write on it as a novel way to send messages, hence the paper birch was born. This New Hampshire state tree is often associated with beauty and romance, and it’s understandable why. With its lean trunk and towering height, the paper birch stands out amidst any forest backdrop. In addition to its early beginnings as a source of paper, the paper birch was also the tree of choice for early canoes because of its light weight and smooth grain.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions

  • Paper birch grows in acidic, clay, loamy, moist and sandy soils, is also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 2-7).
  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 50-70 feet high at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Has a distinctive, smooth, white, paper-like bark that curls and peels as the trees ages.
  • Exhibits rich, golden, fall foliage.
  • Note: peeling the bark off will scar the tree with a dark band around the trunk, the area will not grow back with its natural white bark, so resist peeling.

If you could write a message to the forest, what would you say?

Sheereen Othman

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