11 Types of Birch Trees (with Pictures)
Birch trees are pretty distinguished. Their white coloration sets them apart from most other types of trees. However, it is much more difficult to tell different birch trees apart. In fact, most people aren’t even aware that there are different birch trees.
However, there are quite a few subspecies of birch trees, though some are much more common than others. Most of these trees prefer wetter soil and are primarily found in the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere. Usually, these trees have a papery bark, distinguishing them from other tree species.
Their unique bark and beautiful leaves often cause them to be utilized in landscaping. Plus, their love of wet soil allows them to grow where other trees would fall over.
Below, we’ll look at the 11 most common types of birch trees out there.
The 11 Types of Birch Trees
1. Bog Birch Tree
While this species is technically a type of birch tree, it looks more like a shrub than a tree. It only grows to five to ten feet. These trees don’t live very long, either, but they do tolerate occasional flooding and all different types of soil, making them a suitable option to grow where other plants simply won’t. If you have a rainy garden or an area that inclines to hold water, these trees may be one of your few options.
They are also known as the “swamp birch”, mainly because of their common growth location.
They do need full sunlight to grow, though, so they aren’t a good choice for wooded areas. They need a wide-open space to grow properly.
2. Yellow Birch Tree
The Yellow Birch is named after the color of its bark. However, the bark really isn’t that yellow. Instead, it takes on a darker, silver coloration. Strangely, the tree is also known as the Golden Birch – once again for its not-so-yellow bark.
This tree is relatively long-lived and may grow for up to 300 years, though the lifespan is closer to 150 years. They commonly make up old-growth forests due to their longer lifespan. They are an essential species for the North American lumber industry and play a significant role in ecology, as they are a significant food source for birds and other sorts of wildlife.
They are single-stemmed trees with bark that peels in narrow, horizontal strips. Usually, their different coloration is the easiest way to identify them.
3. Water Birch Tree
This birch species has a unique golden-brown bark that distinguishes it from its other birch cousins. Plus, their bark also does not peel like other birch trees. They are typically found along streams and other wet areas in the mountains.
These trees are a common source of food and lodge wood for the North American beaver. Plus, it also plays a vital role for other bird and woodland species.
They typically grow up to 40 feet as a tree, though they exist in shrub form as well, which only grows up to 25 feet. They prefer full sun, though they can also grow in partial shade.
4. Cherry Birch Tree
The Cherry Birch is a relatively large tree that grows as a single, large trunk. It has attractive, yellow foliage that makes it a common choice for lawns and other planted areas. The bark is a red-brown coloration, which sets it apart from other birch trees as well. When the tree matures, the bark forms cracks that look like scaly plates – like the bark on a cherry tree.
This tree flowers in April and May, producing fruit in August through October. People do not typically eat these fruits. However, they are a nutritional food for deer, rabbits, and birds. They are also known to attract lots of butterflies. Plus, they are resilient to the bronze birch borer, which tends to decimate other birch species.
Broken twigs are very fragrant and smell like wintergreen. The sap is an essential component in birch beer.
For all these reasons, they are a widespread birch tree for gardening and cultivation.
5. Dwarf Birch Tree
As the name suggests, this tree is rather small. It can grow to as little as six inches, making it one of the smaller trees on this list. They are native to colder regions, where all plants tend to be a bit smaller. They can be found in cool temperate areas but are also somewhat common in tundra areas.
They are hardy trees that can grow in a variety of situations. However, they prefer well-drained areas that are a bit rocky. They can grow in soils that other trees cannot. However, they do not bear shade and require full sun.
While this tree is not usually cultivated (unless you live in an area where nothing else will grow), it is an essential source of cover for smaller animals that live in colder areas.
Strangely, this tree is also called bog birch, though it is a different species from the bog birch we discussed previously.
6. Silver Birch Tree
When most people think of cultivated birch trees, they likely think of the silver birch. his tree has distinctive white bark that peels in papery strips, which most people imagine when discussing birch trees.
Once upon a time, these trees were extremely common in landscaping, where they were developed into many different varieties. However, they have become very vulnerable to the bronze birch borer, which tends to kill them very quickly. Therefore, many growers are moving towards other birch trees that can withstand this pest a bit easier.
7. Weeping Birch Tree
There is actually no such thing as a weeping birch. However, you’ll often find trees labeled as such at greenhouses and nurseries. Instead of being its own species, this tree is actually a variant of the silver birch, which humans bred for aesthetic reasons. There are many different kinds of weeping birch trees, as different varieties were bred in different areas.
You usually do not find these trees in the wild, as they were developed in captivity. Of course, if one tree finds itself in a forgotten garden and reproduces, you may find these trees in some strange areas.
- See also: 13 Different Types of Willow Trees
8. River Birch Tree
This fast-growing sapling is quite popular for landscaping since it does grow very quickly. It can reach anywhere from 40 to 70 feet when fully grown and reaches this height relatively early. It can grow as a solitary trunk tree or a multi-shaft tree, depending on the variety and environment the tree grows in.
This tree has a reddish-brown to pink bark that is quite distinctive. The outer bark often comes off to reveal the lighter bark underneath, making it an interesting tree to look at year-round. The deep green leaves turn to a light yellow color in the fall.
This tree is quite unaffected by the bronze birch borer, so it is often used as an alternative to the silver birch, which we discussed earlier. Plus, this tree is also the only heat-tolerant Birch, allowing it to be used in warmer areas.
9. Himalayan Birch Tree
There are many reasons why someone may decide to plant the Himalayan Birch. Firstly, it has very pretty spring flowers and a rich yellow fall coloration. The bark is a bright white, just like you would expect from a birch tree.
Generally, it is considered medium-sized and can grow from 30 to 50 feet. It grows rather quickly and develops into a pyramid shape.
However, this species is very susceptible to the bronze birch borer, so it is slowly being phased out. It typically does not survive this pest, requiring removal to prevent other trees from being infected.
While they can live in warmer climates, they are hardier and longer-lived the more north they are planted.
10. Paper Bark Birch Tree
As the name suggests, this tree has a white bark that peels prolifically in long sheets, similar to a piece of paper. In the fall, they have a lovely yellow coloration, which is why they are commonly planted. They can grow with either a single, long trunk or a small clump of many different trunks.
The Native Americans historically used this tree to make valuable products, including their canoes and even footwear. For this reason, this tree is also referred to as the canoe birch.
On top of being useful to people, this Birch is also a vital source of food for various different birds and other animals. Their buds, catkins, and leaves are all a source of food, including their bark, on occasion.
This tree is known as being impervious to the bronze birch borer, which is why it is becoming more popular.
11. Japanese White Birch Tree
As you might expect, this tree is native to Japan and a few other Asian countries. It is a larger birch tree that can grow up to 50 feet tall. This tree grows best in well-drained soil that is either sandy or rocky. It tends to grow in low-quality soil well, making it a good choice for areas that other trees won’t grow in.
This tree prefers to be in full sun. However, it occasionally can thrive in afternoon shade. The most important requirement is constantly moist soil, so it does well in rainier areas. It also prefers a cooler climate, as warmer zones make the tree prone to birch borers.
Conclusion: Birch Tree Types
Birch trees are a great option for cooler climates, especially in areas that are particularly wet. Many birch trees do best in colder areas, as they are more prone to birch borer insects in warmer zones. Most birch species are also suitable for wetter areas. There are also some that are able to grow in soil that is too poor for other species.
There are about eleven birch trees that are widely available for cultivation today. Many of the trees you’ll find at nurseries are weeping birches, which come in many varieties. However, species that are less susceptible to the birch borers are becoming more popular as well.
Featured Image Credit: Annette Meyer, Pixabay