Tree Species of the World's Boreal Forests

Herbs, Shrubs and Other Plants

Terminology | Pictorial

Betula populifoli
Gray Birch
Betulaceae (Birch Family)

A small, bushy tree with open, conical crown of short slender branches reaching nearly to the ground, growing to a height of 9 m and a diameter of 0.3 m.

Gray Birch Description

Distinguishing Features - Leaves: 5 - 7.5 cm long, triangular, tapering from near base to long-pointed tip; sharply and doubly saw-toothed; usually with 4 to 8 veins on each side; leafstalks slender, with black gland-dots; shiny dark green above, paler with tufts of hairs along midvein beneath; turning pale yellow in autumn. Bark: chalky or grayish-white; smooth, thin, not papery; becoming darker and fissured at base. Twigs: reddish-brown, slender, with warty gland-dots. Flowers: tiny; in early spring; male, yellowish, with 2 stamens, many in long drooping catkins near tip of twigs; female, greenish, in short upright catkins back of tip of same twig. Cones: 2 - 3 cm long; cylindrical, brownish, spreading, short-stalked; with many hairy scales and hairy double-winged nutlets; maturing in autumn.


An eastern North American species; from southeastern Ontario to Cape Breton Island, south to Pennsylvania and New England as far south as North Carolina; prefers dry barren uplands, also moist soils, in mixed woodlands.


The Gray Birch grows rapidly but is short-lived. Its wood is used for spools, spindles and other turned articles; also a popular firewood.

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