Betula populifolius (Gray Birch, White Birch, Fire Birch)

Gray Birch are fast growing, small, short-lived birch trees performing well in the northeastern United States. They regenerate, are pioneers, and appear similar to Quaking Aspen.

Betula populifolia (Gray Birch, White Birch, Fire Poplar)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 3-6 (prefers temperatures to not exceed 24 Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit))
Height: 6-13 meters (20-40 feet) tall
Diameter: 3-6 meters (10-20 feet) across
Growth Rate: fast
Age: very short-lived individuals (commonly only to 20 years), frequent cloning, flowering begins at 8 years old
Root System: shallow, keep cool
Family: Betulaceae
Subspecies: ‘Laciniata’, ‘Pendula’ (drooping/weeping), ‘Purpurea’ (young foliage purplish), Betula × caerulea (Blue Birch, hybrid of B. populifolia and B. papyrifera), ‘Whitespire Senior’
Tolerates: nutrient poor (inorganic, uneven) soils, dry (will retard growth) and wet soils, salt, air pollution
Problems (major): Bronze birch borer are typically fatal, especially in warmer climates. In the northern part of its range, this birch often performs poorly. Birch leaf minor
Problems (minor): Resistant to cankers (if harmed by insects), aphids, birch skeletonizer, storm injury during thunderstorms and ice storms, flammable, chlorosis (in alkaline soils)
Poisonous: no
Soil requirements: prefers loamy soil, requires good drainage, performs well in acidic soils
Air requirements: tolerates urban conditions
Watering requirement: moderate to high (consistently high to wet soil)
Sun requirement: full sun (wet soils) or minimal shade (moist soils)
Leaves: alternate, simple, light green, triangular, double toothed, sharp margins, to 8 centimeters (3 inches) long
Flowers: male (yellowish or brown, drooping, to 10 centimeters (4 inches) long) and female (green, erect, to 1 centimeter (0.5 inches) long) catkins, flower in April-May
Fruits: cone-like, winged, maturing in September-October and dispersing in winter, seeds double-winged “nutlets”
Seeds require stratification: yes
Trunk: sometimes singular (frequently multi-stemmed), chalky grey/white with black lines and stripes, new twigs slender, reddish-brown, bark non-peeling
Form: narrow/columnar/pyramidal, symmetrical with singular trunk
Monoecious/Dioecious: monoecious
Monocot/Dicot: dicot
Notable characteristics:
Frequent suckering (asexual reproduction by producing clones from the root system) allows Grey Birch to regenerate quickly from logging and fires. This tree, along with Quaking Aspen and other birch, are pioneer species that often give way to fir or spruce forests in their native range through ecological succession.

This tree is sometimes used as an ornamental in the northeastern portion of North America. Gray Birch are sometimes used as lumber due to their remarkable regenerative abilities.
Sources used:

Foliage and trunk


Developing male catkins

Betula_papyrifera Betula_papyrifera_

All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.


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