Trees of Iowa: An Interactive Key

Paper Birch
(Betula papyrifera)

Leaves are alternate, simple, and double-toothed with equal leaf bases.

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Paper birch is also known as white birch or canoe birch. It is a showy tree in the woods with its white bark. Paper birch is not a large tree in Iowa and is used primarily for ornamental plantings. It has a clear, straight trunk and thin, rounded crown.  It is found principally in the northeast part of Iowa, extending southwestward to Eldora. Paper birch occurs on moist wooded slopes and along streams.

Hardiness: zones 3 through 9

Growth Rate:
Moderate to Rapid

Mature Shape:
Pyramidal, open-rounded

Varies with the species of birch tree. Ranging from 40 feet tall to 70 feet tall.

Varies with species from 35 feet wide to 60 feet wide.

Site Requirements:
Best planted in full sun, with moist, well-drained soils. Will tolerate a range of soils. River birch trees require a higher soil pH than most landscapes in Iowa provide and develop iron chlorosis, characterized by chartreuse- yellow leaves throughout the summer.

Flowering Dates: April - June

Seed Dispersal Dates: August - Spring

Seed Bearing Age: 15 years

Seed Bearing Frequency: Every 2 years

Seed Stratification: Prechill 75 days at 34°F to 40°F
Paper Birch BarkPaper Birch Form

The oval or heart-shaped leaves are pointed at the apex, rounded at the base and are irregularly double toothed. They are rather thick intexture and dull green on the upper side and yellowish green on the lower side.

Paper Birch FruitPaper Birch Leaves

The slender twigs are orange-brown to dull red in color and have the characteristic aromatic birch odor and taste. The heavily layered bark peels off in large sheets. Its chalky white color distinguished this tree from all others in the forest. At the base of old trunks the bark becomes blackish and furrowed.

Paper Birch TwigsPaper Birch Flowers

Click on a thumbnail image below to view a larger picture.
Paper Birch Bark Paper Birch Leaves Paper Birch Fruit Paper Birch Twig Paper Birch Fruit Paper Birch Twigs Paper Birch Fruit Paper Birch Flowers Paper Birch Form Paper Birch Bark Paper Birch Form Paper Birch Twig