Gray birch

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Betula populifolia Marsh.

Common name(s): gray birch, oldfield birch

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


-Slender tree with smooth white bark

-Leaves are

  • dark green
  • triangular with a long tapering tip
  • 1.5″-2.5″ long and 1″- 2″ wide

-Buds have sharp points that point away from the twig

-Unisexual flowers

  • male catkins are pre-formed in the summer and over winter, 1.5″ to 2.5″ long when mature in the spring; female catkins 0.5″ long and slender

-The fruit’s thin wings broader than the nutlet

– may be confused with B. papyrifera, which also occurs in wild blueberry fields; see left sidebar on Go Botany webpage


-Prefers dry, upland soils

-disturbed sites

-well drained soils

-seedlings are widely adapted



Dickerson, John. “GRAY BIRCHBetula Populifolia Marsh.” Plant Fact Sheet, USDA NRCS, Feb. 2002,