canoe birch, white birch

Betula papyrifera Marshall

Paper birch is well known throughout the Adirondacks and the Catskills and along the highlands of the Susquehanna and Delaware drainage on account of its white, papery bark. This shade-intolerant tree grows on a wide range of soils; it thrives along lakes, streams, and swamps, and maintains itself on the higher slopes of our mountains. Spools, woodenware, shoe lasts, wood pulp, and fuelwood are made from its light, strong, tough, hard, light brown wood.

Bark - on young stems, golden to reddish brown in color, early becoming chalky white and peeling off in thin, papery layers, which once separated from the tree are never renewed. Because it is tough, resinous, durable, and impervious to water, it was the choice of all northern Indians for their canoes. Now it is the choice of the souvenir hunter.

Twigs - stouter than those in gray birch, dull reddish brown in color.

Winter buds - terminal bud absent as in gray birch; lateral buds small, sharp-pointed, bending away from twig.

Leaves - simple, alternate, ovate, blunt-pointed rather than slender at apex, 2 to 3 inches long, coarsely serrate on margin; at maturity dull dark green in color above, paler below.

Fruit - a cone-like structure as in the gray birch, 1 inch long, 1/3 inch thick, usually pendant rather than erect; nutlets and bracts falling in late autumn and winter as with other birches.

Distinguishing features - white bark peeling in papery layers in older trees, in saplings reddish-brown; ovate leaves.

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