Gray Birch

Gray_Birch_jpgOf the 35 to 40 birches in the northern temperate and subartic parts of the world, 12 to 15 grow in the United States.  Birches are short-lived.  Several species are important to man and wildlife. Gray Birch can be found in dry and well-drained, moist, sterile ground of swamp edges, disturbed soil, old fields and mixed woods. Gray Birch is a pioneer species, often the first to colonize open lands—by seed or vigorous root sprouting.  After reaching 20 to 30 feet, it usually succumbs to forest succession.  Gray Birch often occurs in clusters of multiple stems.  Gray Birch may be mistaken for Trembling Aspen, like that tree it grows in little groves; frequently from the same root.  Like the Aspen, its leaves turn a soft gold in Autumn. The wood has been used for pulpwood, toothpicks, spools, and fuel.  Gray Birch is often stricken with leaf miners and bronze birch borer. The sharp-tailed, spruce, and ruffed grouse feed on catkins, buds and seeds; the redpoll and pine siskin feed on seeds and browsing or wood-eating mammals such as moose, snowshoe or varying hares, porcupine, and beavers feed on bark.

OtherCommonName:

Fire Birch, Oldfield Birch, Poverty Birch, Popular Birch

ScientificName:

Betula populifolia

Community:

Thicket

PlantStatus:

Native

LifeSpan:

Woody Tree

PlantHeight:

to 30 feet, commonly 15-20 feet

FruitingTime:

June to August

Distribution:

Nova Scotia to Virginia ~ Statewide in New Jersey

FloweringTime:

Mid April to May

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Leaves simple, alternate, triangular, long tapered apex, margins doubly serrate, dark green, trembling in slightest breeze, turn soft gold in fall ~ Twigs greenish to brown, slender, covered with warty projections and raised lenticels ~ Buds ¼ inch, sharp point ~ Flowers catkins, male and female on same tree ~ Fruit small, winged nutlet, ripens in fall ~ Bark grayish white, chalky, not peeling, triangular black patches below points where limbs meet trunk