Paper birch

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Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)


A hardwood birch tree, Betula papyrifera, native to North America. The paper birch has a silvery white flexible bark that readily peels off in sheets. Paper birch bark was used to make wigwams, baskets, canoes, shoes, and paper pulp. The smooth, light-color wood from the paper birch tree is used for interior trim, flooring and cabinetry.

Synonyms and Related Terms

American white birch (Betula papyrifera); canoe birch; silver birch; poplar birch;

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera)

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Tree height = 20-25m
  • Bark = light gray to white, peeling in papery sheets
  • Flowers = catkins (3-8 cm long)
  • Color: Heartwood is light reddish brown with nearly white sapwood producing a dull uniform appearance
  • Grain: generally straight with fine, even texture
  • Durability: Will readily decay when exposed to element. Not resistant to insects

Additional Images

Working Properties

  • Easy to work with hand and machine tools, though boards with wild grain can cause grain tearout during machining operations
  • Turns, glues, and finishes well

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 104
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Virginia Tech Dendrology website at (accessed Oct. 3, 2005)
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998