How Many Types Of Birch Trees Are There? [ The Right Answer ]

how many types of birch trees are there

Finding a rare deciduous tree in a winter garden is indeed remarkable, but when it comes to birches, it is exceptionally beautiful. When birch comes to mind, most people imagine papery scrolls of various colors ranging from snowy white to maroon peeling off the bark.

It is a common charismatic attribute of birches, however, not the only one. Birch trees are deciduous trees that range from shrubs to moderately tall trees with an average height of 50 feet.

It grows in cooler climates, especially in mountains and the northern temperate zone.

These are mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere, including places like Europe, North America, and across northern Asia.

Birch trees belong to the Betulaceae family.

Most birch trees produce both male and female flowers known as catkins which make them self-propagating trees.

Birch trees have over thirty species spread all over the world. Cultivars of the birch tree, like the paper birch, are able to survive in colder temperatures like 10 degrees Celsius or lesser.

How many types of Birch Trees are there?

There are a lot of species of birch trees that are known for the seasonal paper-like peel of their white bark. Birch trees have an outstandingly striking appearance that makes them stand out among other deciduous trees.

Birches are very prominent for their papery exfoliating quality and add a fantastic look to the landscape.

It is true that it might be prone to pests, and some of them are very short-lived; it is still loved by gardeners and landscapers.

Not only are these amazingly beautiful, some birch trees even have medicinal values and are edible.

If you manage to grow birch trees properly, you will be highly benefited by its mind-blowing abilities. Birches come in several sizes, shapes, and structures and hold high value in every surrounding.

They have elegantly eye-catching leaves and also bloom beautiful catkins in season.

It looks remarkable in all seasons; in summers and falls, they look marvelous, but their true beauty doesn’t come out until winter.

Most species of birch trees are low maintenance and easy to grow and take care of.

Having it in your garden will be advantageous as they look amazing and have less work tied to it.

There are several types of birch trees, with all unique and striking features.

The family has more than 60 types, out of which only half is seen.

Even lesser types of birch trees are grown around the world. Take a look at the different types of birch trees around the world and enjoy their fascinating features.

Types of birch trees

There are over 30 different variants of birch trees, out of which these are the ones most commonly found:

Paper Birch

Betula papyrifera is the most common type of birch tree. It grows fast and has a striking white bark.

It is named paper birch because the first layer of bark peels away like a white papery substance, and a second layer is revealed, which is generally of a dark brown color.

Paper Birch is home to northern parts of the States and Canada.

It can either grow as a single trunk or have several stems.

Owing to its premium quality wood, it is used by Native Americans to make items like footwear, canoe, etc. Sometimes it is also referred to as canoe birch.

Lastly, paper birch has a short lifespan. However, it is indeed a beautiful native admiration of the place where it grows.

  • Hardiness area: 2-6
  • Optimum Height: 50-70’
  • Optimum Spread: 25-50’
  • Light Requirements: Party Shaded
  • Soil PH Requirement: Slightly Acidic to Neutral
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium to High Moisture

Cherry Birch

Cherry Birch or Betula lenta has a shiny brown bark and gorgeous yellow leaves.

It is named so because the bark resembles cherry trees a lot.

The mature trees have uneven scaly plates on their trunks that come out from cracks on the bark.

These trees have high geographical value. During late summer to mid-fall, the trees become even more gorgeous with the bloom of the catkin fruits.

Wildlife such as rabbits, deer, squirrels, and others feed on these catkin fruits.

Unlike the other bronze birch borer, the cherry birch has high resilience to pests.

It is a relatively rare birch species to find in nurseries.

  • Hardiness area : 3-8
  • Optimum Height: 40-55’
  • Optimum Spread: 35-45’
  • Light Requirements: Party Shaded or Full Sun
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: High Moisture

Yellow Birch

Also called the swamp birch, Betula Alleghaniensis is a birch species that is especially noted for its yellow-bronze bark.

Unlike other birch trees that have a maximum life of 25-30 years, yellow birch can live up to 300 years.

It looks unique and attractive in many landscapes.

The bark often peels off in tightly curled strips revealing a silvery grey trunk underneath.

The wood of yellow birch is very useful in the lumber industry while it contains enormous wildlife value as well.

The trees are quite tall, reaching an average height of 50 to 80 feet.

  • Hardiness area : 3-7
  • Optimum Height: 40-60’
  • Optimum Spread: 40-50’
  • Light Requirements: Party Shaded or Full Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Moist

Gray Birch

Some species of birch trees have clumps of trunks branching out of everywhere.

Gray Birch is one of those trees whose shadow will make you confuse it with an oversized shrub.

Gray birches grow several clusters out of the same root.

They are known for their white bark and airy leaves. Mostly they thrive best in moist soils.

If you live along the USDA zones 3 through 8, you are sure to spot multiple of these beauties.

These birches magnify the elegance of water landscapes.

These trees are not particularly tall, but their average height turns out to be advantageous in garden scenarios.

Gray birch and paper birch are rather similar in appearance, but there are certainly significant differences.

The only downside of gray birch is its short lifespan. It lasts only for 25 years, however, during which it truly endures a majestic look.

  • Hardiness area : 3-6
  • Optimum Height: 20-40’
  • Optimum Spread: 10-20’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Neutral
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium to High Moisture Capacity

European White Birch or Silver Birch

The White Birch, Betula pendula, also called Silver Birch, is native to Europe and parts of Asia.

Its name suggests that it has a smooth white bark. It is similar to the paper birch, but there is a lot less exfoliation compared to the paper birch.

Its leaves are the same as other birch trees but are somewhat more geometric in shape.

At the mark of spring in Europe, the leaves of these trees turn into a beautiful light green color with triangle leaves.

Similar to all birch species, the white birches also need constant pruning during their dormant phase.

You also have to be very careful, as cutting off the branches when the sap is running can cause the entire tree to bleed out.

These trees have the tendency to leak out very fast from open wounds. Too much loss of sap is highly dangerous for the tree.

Throughout its lifespan, the tree changes its shape and texture several times.

Even though the silver birch looks elegant throughout all seasons, its true beauty is reflected in the winters, especially in colder climates.

  • Hardiness area: 2-6
  • Optimum Height: 30-40’
  • Optimum Spread: 15-30’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Neutral
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium to High Moisture Capacity

River Birch

Betula nigra, commonly known as River birch, is one of the most glamorous trees in the plant kingdom known for its amazing peeling property.

Its statement scaly brown barks set a different aura in every garden.

It is a textured tree with several trunk layers. It is also a fast-growing birch tree.

IT has an impressive canopy spread that extends up to 35 feet.

River birch is a wild deciduous tree with a single trunk, upright growing tendency. It has lustrous leaves with a silver tinge underneath. It thrives best in wet soils and is recognized for its excellent heat tolerance.

  • Hardiness area : 3-9
  • Optimum Height: 40-70’
  • Optimum Spread: 40-60’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Neutral
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: High moisture

Himalayan Birch

Himalayan Birch has the brightest shade of white trunk among all the other species of birch. The barks of Himalayan birches are elegantly white and look exceptionally beautiful and vibrant in their surrounding landscape.

The thin exfoliating layers have rusted bronze underneath. The outstandingly bright bark isn’t the only exceptional quality of this tree.

These trees produce very beautiful spring flowers and a warm yellow color during fall.

The Himalayan birch can grow up to an impressive height of 50 feet, and its broad, majestic trunk has a pyramidal branching tendency.

One downfall about this tree is that it is very prone to pests.

Despite the downhill of the bronze birch borer, this tree is a remarkable addition to the landscape. Due to its preferable growing requirements, it can grow easily in landscapes like gardens and parks.

  • Hardiness area : 3-8
  • Optimum Height: 40-70’
  • Optimum Spread: 20-25’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium to High Moisture

Bog Birch

Birches of this kind are not very tall trees.

This species has adapted to poor grade acidic soil and is very frequently seen in swamps and bogs and any other area with intermittent flooding.

These plants grow well in temperate regions with full sunlight exposure.

Even though it is not commonly found in general landscapes, it can be found often in parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. Since this is a low-maintenance tree, you can add it to your garden without any trouble, but you have to remember that it is intolerant to shade.

It is a fast-growing, short-lived species of birch. These Birches have coarse rounded leaves which turn from green to red during fall.

  • Hardiness area: 2-9
  • Optimum Height: 5-10’
  • Optimum Spread: 5-10’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Soil PH Requirement: Slightly Acidic to Neutral
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium to High Moisture

Dwarf Birch

Dwarf Birch is a shrub. Unlike other Birch trees, it is extremely small, round, and looks like a shrub.

It is even smaller than Bog Birch, though similar to it. It grows to the maximum size of 4’.

This concise and easy to care nature of the plant makes it perfect as a garden birch. It grows and survives in very cold and hardy regions.

Dwarf Birches grow in the wild in the northern temperate zone, in places like Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

The leaves of dwarf birch are compact and round, and they look similar to other birch leaves.

However, the leaves of this tree are generally thicker than others. There are different types of Dwarf Birch.

The plants vary greatly in their size, shapes, and various color ranges. Cesky Gold is one of the most popular variations of Dwarf Birch. The varieties appear in red, yellow, and orange hues.

Dwarf Birch has edible characteristics. There is a high concentration of Vitamin C present in its leaves.

However, you need to maintain caution and be very careful before consuming any edible plant. An error in identifying dwarf birch or any edible plants can be very harmful to your health and even lead to death.

  • Hardiness area: 2-7
  • Optimum Height: 3-4’
  • Optimum Spread: 2-3’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium Moisture

Downy Birch

Downy birch has the ability to survive in extreme cold climatic conditions.

It can deal with up to hardiness zone 2a, which is an impossible living circumstance for most birches, rather all broad-leaved trees in general.

Needless to say, it is native to extremely cold regions and can be spotted in the wilds of Western Europe, Russia, and Iceland.

Being an edible plant, Downy Birch is very helpful in situations of food scarcity. Harvesting of these birch bark is prevalent in many parts of Europe.

They use the ground powdered bark of this plant to make bread.

Downy Birches hold high medicinal value as well. It is sometimes used as an astringent or a diuretic by many people.

There are many more healing properties like it helps to treat fever and also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

These trees have high survival conditions.

Removing its bark doesn’t kill the tree, which allows humans to use it for food and medicine requirements.

Apart from food and medicine, it is also used in food materials. It is used by carpenters to make flooring, cabinets, furniture, and a lot more things.

Downy Birches can thrive in wildlands that have been recently cleared. It grows best in full sunlight and has a longer lifespan than other birches.

  • Hardiness area: 2-9
  • Optimum Height: 40-60’
  • Optimum Spread: 30-40’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to part shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Medium to High Moisture

Chinese Red Birch

The most striking feature of the Chinese Red Birch is its glamorous reddish-brown bark. Underneath the thin exfoliating outer layers of papery sheets are long horizontal white lenticels.

The leaves of this tree are matte, dark yellow-green. In the fall, the tree looks eye-catching with its red bark and fully yellow leaves.  This plant is native to China.

It is scarcely grown in some parts of Europe but extremely rare in the United States.

The scarcity of this tree in the US is owing to its geographical conditions and other weather requirements.

Chinese Birches have a lot of beneficial features. Another remarkable characteristic is that it can survive in both acidic and alkaline soil.

Apart from their gorgeous appearance, these trees are also tolerant of drought.

Unlike other birches that require high water requirements, Chinese red birch has the unique ability among the birches, which makes it a preferable option in situations where other birches would not generally have a chance.

  • Hardiness area: 5-8
  • Optimum Height: 30-50’
  • Optimum Spread: 20-30’
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Soil PH Requirement: Slightly Acidic to Alkaline
  • Soil Wetness Requirement: Moist to Dry

Conclusion

These were the types of Birch trees commonly found.

While many people know Birches only for their white bark and papery peels, there are various varieties that will strike the interest of many.

Hopefully, you were able to gain a lot of knowledge about birches and their kinds.

Now that you know about this, it is hard to misidentify one. Add one of these amazing trees and increase the value of your local ecosystem.

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