Paper Barked Birch Betula papyrifera
BETULA PAPYRIFERA - Paper barked birch
A medium to large sized tree growing to about 15m (50ft) tall it is upright with an open branched head. Although the peeling bark is a bright chalky white colour when it is found in its native homeland of North America and Canada in British gardens it tends to have orange tones with pink, pale brown and dark purple areas. It is strongly marked with horizontal bands of lenticels. The leaves can vary in size from 4 to 10 cm long and turn yellow in the autumn.
Where to Grow
This birch will do well on most soils but, as is the case with the majority of birches, it particularly likes a moist but well drained sandy soil.
Did you know?
The bark has been used for many purposes by native peoples such as writing material, wigwam covers and roofing material. Many will have seen Ray Mears creating and then paddling his birch bark canoe along the Canadian creaks.
- Mature height
- Medium - 10-15 metres
- 5-10 meters
- Growth rate
- Soil type
- All soil types
- Sun levels
- Full sun
- Difficulty/hard to grow
- Season of interest
- Autumn colour
- Fine/Light leaf
- Early to Leaf
- Small leaves
- Peeling bark?
- Parkland Tree
- Garden Tree
- City/Urban Sites
- Timber producing
- Wind break
Pruning Betula Papyrifera
Betula papyrifera requires little routine pruning, and it is not advisable to hard prune birch, so choose a planting spot where the tree can reach its full potential. Light pruning is fine; remove young growth and crossing stems to keep a good shape.
To display the interesting peeling bark, remove low stems from the trunk when they are young. This will keep branch scars small.
When should I prune? Light prune during the autumn, through to mid-winter.
For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.
The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.
One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital for 3 years after planting that your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass. The way to eliminate grass in order of effectiveness is:
- Spray off the grass with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup. Apply each year for the first 3 years. It is best applied when the tree is dormant as it is absorbed through green leaves and kills the plant off at the roots.
- Firmly fit a mulch mat around the base of the tree by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. This can be done after the initial spraying with glyphosate and should avoid the need for further spraying.
Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.
If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.
Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.
- 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
- 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
- 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.
Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.
Protection from Animal Damage
Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.