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Betula papyrifera (paper birch)

Paper birch is a North American tree with waterproof bark used in earlier times to make canoes and tepee covers; its wood is now used commercially for toothpicks and ice lolly sticks.
Close up of the peeling bark of Betula papyrifera

Close up of the bark of Betula papyrifera

Species information

Scientific name: 

Betula papyrifera Marshall

Common name: 

paper birch, canoe birch, white birch

Conservation status: 

Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Mixed forest, or may form single species woodland; on rock cliffs, in ravines, shores, wooded watersides, peat bogs and dry pine stands.

Key Uses: 

Bark (used to make canoes and many other items), timber, wood pulp, medicinal, ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Betula

About this species

Paper birch gets its name from its smooth, white, paper-like bark that can be peeled off in large pieces. The flexible and waterproof bark has long been used as a raw material and the soft, whitish wood is used commercially to make items such as toothpicks and ice lolly sticks.

It is a pioneer species that colonises new environments, for example open spaces created by logging or forest fires. It grows rapidly when exposed to full sunlight and produces large numbers of winged seeds, which can travel long distances on the wind.

Betula papyrifera was adopted as the state tree of New Hampshire (USA) in 1947.

Medicinal Uses

The bark has been used medicinally throughout history; as a poultice for wounds, a cast for broken bones and as part of a decoction for treating respiratory disorders.


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