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TREES & plants

Whitespire Senior gray birch

Mature specimens of Whitespire Senior gray birch.

This cultivar demonstrates good resistance to bronze birch borer (BBB).  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. 

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

Botanical name: 
Betula populifolia 'Whitespire'
All Common Names: 
Whitespire Senior gray birch, Whitespire birch
Family (English): 
Birch
Family (Botanic): 
Betulaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Parkway/street, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Mature Height: 
30-40 feet
Mature Width: 
20-30 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Fall color
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Game birds, 
  • Sapsuckers, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

A medium sized tree tolerant of hot, dry summers and poor soils.
Considered to have a short life span. Cultivar 'Whitespire' more desirable than the species.
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 and air pollution.

Native geographic location and habitat

This is a cultivar of a tree native to the northeastern United States.

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.

Leaf 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.

Betula populifolia 'Whitespire' or Whitespire Senior gray birch