Paper birch

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

Scientific name: Betula papyrifera Marsh.

Common name(s): paper birch, white birch, paperbark birch, canoe birch

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

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


-distinctive white bark

  • peels off in “papery rolls”

-elastic young saplings

-seeds are winged and wind dispersed

-can reach a height of 70 feet and 12 inches in DBH

– may be confused with B. cordifolia, which has heart shaped leaves and was formerly thought to be a variety of B. papyrifera, or B. populifolia, which also occurs in wild blueberry fields; see left sidebar on Go Botany webpage


-cold climates

-forest edges


Natural History:

-source of skin for the traditional birch bark canoe

-used to shape snowshoe frames

Wildlife benefits:

-beavers eat the pink inner bark

-snowshoe hare eat the young seedlings

-over browsed by deer, moose, porcupines, and hares

-defoliated by

  •  the forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria)
  • the birch skeletonizer (Bucculatrix canadensisella)
  • the birch leafminer (Fenusa pusilla)
  • birch leaf-mining sawflies (Heterarthrus nemoratus and Profenusa thomsoni)
  • the birch casebearer (Coleophora serratella)
  • the saddled prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta)
  • the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar)
  • in Alaska, the spearmarked black moth (Rheumaptera hastata)



Go Botany. “Betula Papyrifera Marsh.” Betula Papyrifera (Paper Birch): Go Botany, 2021,

Safford, L O, et al. “Paper Birch.” Betula Papyrifera Marsh, USDA,