This native tree has lovely white bark and yellow fall color, but is not a good tree for tough sites. It demonstrates some resistance to bronze birch borer (BBB). This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All common names:
- Residential and parks
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 2,
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil,
- Road salt
- Moderately Tolerant
- Moderately Tolerant
- Intolerant of pollution
- Spring blossoms,
- Fall color,
- Attractive bark
Seasons of Interest:
- early winter,
- late winter,
- early fall,
- mid fall,
- late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game birds,
- Insect pollinators,
- Small mammals,
Tree & Plant Care
This tree performs better in more northern climates. Trees may be stressed by the hot summers of northern Illinois.
Avoid pruning birches in spring as they are bleeders (will lose quantities of sap).
Disease, pests, and problems
Leaf miners and cankers are possible.
Chlorosis (yellowing) may occur in high pH soils.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Shows some resistance to the bronze birch borer.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to more northern areas of the United States and Canada.
Bark color and texture
Bark is very white and peels readily. Long, black lenticels and V-shaped black marks at branch connections are prominent on this species as it ages.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; 2 to 4 inches long.
Dark green, oval-shaped, leaves have double serrated margins.
Leaves are dark green in summer, changing to yellow in fall.
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.
Cultivars and their differences
Renaissance Reflection® paper birch (Betula papyrifera 'Renci'): A fast-growing cultivar with striking white bark. The dark green foliage transitions to a golden color in the fall. This tree is resistant to bronze birch borer (BBB), but does not do well when exposed to drought or polluted conditions.