Paper birch is a small to medium sized deciduous tree that grows 30 to 40 metres tall and has a trunk that grows up to 75 centimetres in diameter. The bark of the tree is special because it peels off in strips leaving behind a reddish-orange inner bark. The outer bark is reddish brown when the tree is young and as it ages it turns a creamy-white colour.
RANGE & HABITAT
Paper birch is common all over B.C. where the forests are moist and in northern areas since they can tolerate frost. They are also found on floodplains, uplands, swamp edges and bogs.
Paper birch rarely grows more than 140 years but it is a fast growing tree. The catkins appear at the same time or before the leaves and they flower in late May or early June depending upon the location. The fruits that are winged nutlets inside the catkins ripen from early August to mid September and disperse soon after.
Larger mammals such as deer and moose browse this tree as it is an important part of their diet. The seeds are also important for birds that are attracted to them in the fall.
TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES
The bark of the paper birch was used to make baskets, canoes, cradles and as a medicine for colds. The leaves were used to make soap and shampoo. Its wood was fashioned into toboggans, into utensils and dishes.
The wood of this tree is easy to work with so it has become widely used for pulpwood, veneers and firewood.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Wikimedia Commons