E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

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

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Bryan Kelly-McArthur  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #73045)

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Distribution of Betula papyrifera
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Species Information

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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.

Source: The 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

Habitat / 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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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) 0 777 2500
Slope Gradient (%) -2 21 235
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 229 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number 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)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References