Betula papyrifera

Common Names: Paper birch, white birch, canoe birch
Category: Trees
Sub-category: Birches

This tree has many good uses in the wild. The bark when peeled makes a good fire starter, burning even when wet. The bark has been used as paper, and even in making canoes.

It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 60 feet tall, with a trunk up to 32 inches diameter. They live to about 140 years. The bark is white, commonly brightly so, flaking in fine horizontal strips, and often with small black marks and scars. In individuals younger than five years, the bark appears brown with white lenticels, making the tree much harder to distinguish from other trees. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 1-5 inches long and 2-4 inches broad, with a doubly serrate margin. The leaf buds are conical and small. They are green-colored with brown edges. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 1.5 inches long growing from the tips of twigs. The fruit matures in the fall. The mature fruit is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts. They drop between September and spring.

Common in Connecticut, they are found in deciduous and mixed forests, parks, and urban and residential areas.

Edible Notes: It's sap can be boiled down to make birch syrup, though other birches are more commonly used for that purpose. Look for birch beer or birch soda in your local supermarket or gourmet food store. While the flavoring is usually artificial, it is a good, close approximation.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.