Betula papyrifera Marshall
paper birch (canoe birch; white birch)
Betulaceae (Birch family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Bryan Kelly-McArthur     (Photo ID #73045)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Betula papyrifera
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

Deciduous tree, 10-30 m tall; bark white, yellowish- to reddish-brown or dark grey, often peeling; twigs hairy with both short and long hairs.
Alternate, deciduous, broadly egg-shaped in outline, the tips sharp-pointed, hairy below, rarely glandular, 4-10 cm long, leaf stalks more than 1 cm long.
Male and female flowers in separate catkins 2-4 cm long; flowers emerging before or with the leaves; catkins breaking up at maturity.
Nutlets with broad wings, at least twice as wide as the body of the nutlets; bracts with rounded, ascending or diverging lateral lobes.
Numerous apparent hybrids between B. papyrifera and B. neoalaskana or B. occidentalis (e.g., B. x utahensis Britt. and B. subcordata Rydb.) have been formally named (see Brayshaw 1996b, Scoggan 1979). Two varieties occur in BC.

1. Mature bark white; fruiting bracts with ascending lateral lobes............... var. papyrifera

1. Mature bark white, yellowish- to reddish-brown or dark grey; fruiting bracts with lateral lobes diverging at right angles................... var. commutata (Regel) Fern.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA


Ecological Framework for Betula papyrifera

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres)
777 0 2500
Slope Gradient (%)
21 -2 235

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

229 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

BG(20), BWBS(407), CWH(163), ESSF(34), ICH(1854), IDF(672), MS(232), PP(36), SBPS(20), SBS(1013), SWB(12)

Habitat and Range

Moist to mesic woodlands, forests, clearcuts, burns and open areas in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; var. commutata - frequent in extreme SW BC, var. papyrifera - common throughout BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF, and S to MN, PA, CO and NE OR.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia