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

Betula pendula Roth
European birch (European white birch)
Betulaceae (Birch family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #88444)

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Distribution of Betula pendula
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Betula pendula is an introduced European tree species that is now found in North America. In the US, it is reported from CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, ME, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, VA, VT, WA, WI, and, in Canada, it is reported from BC, MB, NB, NS, ON, PE (USDA 2010). In British Columbia, it is found in the southwestern corner of the province, and is well established in the Fraser River delta where it has heavily invaded bogs and is widespread. Like other birches, it hybridizes readily, and can produce hybrid swarms. It is tolerant of acid wet conditions and will grow in brackish water (Klinkenberg, personal observation). The earliest specimen record for this species in the UBC Herbarium is a collection from the Fraser River delta by Vladimir Krajina in 1948, from the Lulu Island Bog.

References: USDA. 2010. Plant profile for Betula pendula. United States Department of Agriculture. Available Online.

Species Information

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Deciduous tree, 10-30 m tall; bark thick, rough, dark brown, furrowed, often peeling; twigs glandular, numerous small glands, sometimes sticky; branch ends often drooping.
Alternate, deciduous, wedge-shaped in outline, saw-toothed, glabrous below, 1-6 cm long.
Male and female flowers in separate catkins, the male 3-6 cm long, the female 1.5-3.5 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 lateral lobes.

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

Bogs or marshes in the lowland zone; frequent horticultural escape in the lower Fraser Valley, less common on extreme SE Vancouver Island; introduced from Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

The genus Betula is known for its prolific hybridization that has resulted in difficult to identify hybrid swarms (Brayshaw 1996).


Brayshaw, T. Christopher. 1996. Catkin-bearing Plants of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.


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.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Betula verrucosa Ehrh.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References