Gray birch is a narrow, pyramidal tree of cool climates. Bright green leaves turn a yellow fall color. Older trees develop a chalky white bark that does not peel. A good selection for poor soils and other difficult sites, it also demonstrates some resistance to bronze birch borer (BBB).
- North America
- Wide median
- Residential and parks
- Small tree (15-25 feet)
- Medium tree (25-40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 3
- Zone 4
- Zone 5
- Zone 6
- Zone 7
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Attractive bark
- Spring blossoms
- Fall color
- Early fall
- Mid fall
- Game birds
- Small mammals
- Insect pollinators
Size and Form
20 to 40 feet high and 25 feet wide; irregular shape at maturity
Tree & Plant Care
A medium sized tree tolerant of hot, dry summers, poor soils and road salts.
Considered to have a short life span. Cultivar 'Whitespire' more desirable.
Avoid pruning birches in spring as they are bleeders (will lose quantities of sap).
Best planted in spring.
Disease, pests and problems
Leaf miners and cankers are possible.
Chlorosis may occur in high pH soils.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Resistant to bronze birch borer, air pollution and road salt
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to the northeastern United States.
Common on poor soils.
Attracts birds & butterflies
Host to the tiger swallowtail, mourning cloak butterflies.
Bark color and texture
Young trees have a reddish-brown color, older trees develop a chalky white bark that does not peel.
Black triangular patches form on bark, under branches.
photo: John HagstromLeaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; 2 to 3 inches long
Dark green, triangular-shaped, shiny, pendulous leaves
Margins are double serrated, leaf tip is long and pointed
Yellow fall color
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Inconspicuous; male flowers in cylindrical catkins; females also in a cylindrical structure, but much smaller.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Cylindrical clusters of winged nutlets, borne at end of branches, 2 to -3 inches long
Cultivars and their differences
Whitespire (Betula populifolia ‘Whitespire’): Good resistance to bronze birch borer. The name 'Whitespire' was incorrectly assigned to Betula platyphylla. It is now assigned to Betula populifolia and the plants are often sold under the name 'Whitespire Senior' to avoid confusion.