Birch Trees are classified in the Betulaceae family and the Genus Betula. They are small to medium-sized trees that are primarily found in the Northern Hemisphere.
Some of its varieties grow in a shrubby cluster while others clump together in multiple trunks. Other types grow in a single trunk tree, making them easy to recognize. They have a distinctive bark with papery plates, and the bark’s appearance is where the name of the tree comes from.
Because of its beautiful bark, the Birch tree is excellent for landscaping. Compared to other types of hardwoods, this tree is a bit short-lived. Most of them love water; hence great for moist soil. They have very long trees that can reach your pipes if you plant them too close to the house.
They grow very fast, which is beneficial to the yard. This post will cover 13 types of Birch trees- the most common kinds you can cultivate.
Birch Trees Care Tips
Because of their shallow roots, Birch trees don’t do very well in areas with high heat or droughts. It needs to be planted in a moist location with excellent soil and sunshine so that its leaves can flourish.
Choose a site that will shade its roots in the afternoon and still provide sun for most of the day. Mulching will help maintain the temperature of the soil, so you should do it.
Most Birch trees love slightly acidic soils, but the white variety loves alkaline soil. Keep note of the height of the trees as they can grow tall, so don’t plant them underwires. They are also very susceptible to insects and diseases.
Insects and pests will most likely affect it where it is diseased or wounded. To avoid that, make sure they are well-pruned to get rid of damaged branches. That way, you will reduce any likelihood of infestation by insects or bronze Birch borers.
13 Types of Birch Trees (The Most Common)
#1. Water Birch (Betula Fontinalis)
The Water Birch gets its name because it is mainly found in mountain regions or along streams; dense thickets grow. The bark of this tree is dark red or dark brown to blackish, and it is very smooth. Unlike other types of trees, the bark of this tree does not peel, making it a great source of food for the beaver.
The North American Beaver, which is very common, also uses it as a lodge material. The variety also has other names, including Red, Western, Western Red, and Black Birches. It is native to the mountainous regions and Western North America. Its USDA growing zones are from three to seven and can grow from 25 feet to 40 feet in height. Its sun exposure requirements include Full Sun and Part Shade.
#2. Bog Birch (Betula Pumila)
The Bog Birch is a short-lived, medium-sized, and clump-forming shrub that does well, especially in wet sites. It can tolerate occasional flooding, clay soil, alkaline soil, and even road salt. If you plan to plant it for residential landscaping, then grow it in boggy areas or around bodies of water.
This variety is great for rain gardens, and some of its other names include Resin, Glandular, Swamp, and Dwarf Birch. It is native to North America, and the USDA growing zones are two to nine. If you are wondering about the amount of sun exposure that the tree needs, then the answer is full sun. Don’t forget to prune it to avoid insects and diseases.
#3. Yellow Birch (Betula Alleghaniensis)
The Yellow Birch gets its name from the color of its bark, and it’s a variety that has been in existence for a long time and can grow from 150 years to even 300 years in old undisturbed forests. It has only one stem, and the bark is a yellow bronze in the color that peels in narrow horizontal stripes. This variety is essential, especially to the North American Lumber Industry.
It is also important to Wildlife and birds as it is an excellent source of food. Other names associated with this Birch tree include Curly, Swamp, Hard, and Gold. It is native to Northeastern North America, and its USDA growing zones are three to seven. It can grow from 50 to 80 feet in height and tolerates full sun to part shade. Such gorgeous green leaves!
#4. Japanese White Birch (Betula Platyphylla)
The Japanese White Birch, also referred to as the Asian White Birch, is a sort-after variety with papery bark. It is medium to large with thin spreading branches and white bark. The slender stems finish with drooping branches. If you wonder where this tree will perform best, it is from medium to wet soil types. The soil should be well-drained and rocky loam or sandy soil.
It prefers a total sun exposure but can also thrive in eastern and northern sides that don’t receive sun in the afternoon. The main requirement for this tree is moist soil; it performs well in a cool climate. If planted in a warm environment, it will be susceptible to Birch borer insects. It is native to Japan, Manchuria, and Korea. Its USDA growing zones are from three to eight. The tree can grow from a height of 40 to 50 feet. It needs full sun but can also do well with part shade.
#5. Chinese Red Birch (Betula Albosinensis)
The Chinese red Birch is one of our favorite species of Birch and gets its name from the color of its bark. Its outer layer is very thin, and it exfoliates in paper-like sheets that reveal white horizontal lenticels. The leaves dark yellow-green, but they change color and become an entirely yellow color, making them very attractive when it comes to fall. It is native to Western China and some parts of Europe.
It is very drought tolerant, making it very rare and suitable for many places to survive a lot. It requires full sun to part shade, and its soil preference is acidic to alkaline. The soil should also be moist to dry as that is where it will perform best.
#6. Dwarf Birch (Betula Nana)
Dwarf Birch is available as a small Dwarf Shrub that does well in cool areas and is native to the arctic. It is mainly grown in Tundra landscapes because it does very well in those areas. They can grow in different types of conditions, although it prefers wet, well-drained soils. The well-drained soils should be rocky, acidic, and nutrient-poor. It needs plenty of sunlight and does not like the shade at all.
This Birch is rarely used in landscaping, but it is common to cover vegetation in cold northern territories. Some other names of this tree are arctic and bog. The tree is native to the north of Europe, Greenland, Iceland, north of North America, and northern Asia. The USDA growing zones include one to eight. It can grow from six inches to three feet tall and like a total exposure to the sun.
#7. Paper Bark Birch (Betula Papyrifera)
The Paper Bark is a Birch tree that is native to the Northern US, Alaska, and Canada. Its bark is a lovely white, and during fall, it changes to a color yellow. The tree gets its name, paper Birch because its thin white bark peels like paper layers starting from the trunk. Other words this variety is known for include White and Canoe. Native Americans used this tree to make valuable products like canoes and footwear.
This tree is also essential for some wildlife and birds as its catkins, buds, twigs, barks, and leaves are their food sources. In addition, its bark has shown resistance to the bronze Birch borer. Its native area is northern North America, and its USDA growing zones are from 2 to 7. It can grow up to a height of 45 to 100 feet, and it needs total sun exposure but can survive with a light shade. They contribute to our late summers with lush greens and in the autumn yellow Fall colors.
#8. River Birch (Betula Nigra)
The River Birch is one of the most popular Birch species as it grows swift and is excellent for landscaping. It can either grow as a multi-trunk or single trunk clamping tree. It has a very distinctive bark that ranges from reddish-brown to salmon pink. The bark exfoliates to reveal a lighter inner bark; hence landscapers are interested in it all year round.
This variety is also known as Black, Red, or at times Water Birch. Its dark green foliage changes color in fall, turning into a beautiful buttery yellow. This tree has resistance to the bronze borer, and it’s one of the Birches that can tolerate heat. It is native to Eastern U.S and prefers the hardiness zones from two to nine. It can grow from 40 to 70 inches in height and tolerates full sun to part shade.
#9. Cherry Birch (Betula Lenta)
A Cherry Birch, also known as a sweet Birch tree, grows from one main, slender trunk. The bark is red-brown and shiny in color, and the foliage is yellow. That makes this tree very attractive, especially for neutralized areas and landscapes. When the tree matures, the bark develops vertical cracks, which become scaly plates like a cherry tree bark. This tree flowers in May and April and produces catkins from August to October.
The Cherry Birch is an excellent food for moose, deer, some birds, and even rabbits. The tree is also an attraction for gorgeous butterflies, which will add beauty to your landscape. The good thing about this plant is that it resists the bronze borer, destroying other Birch trees.
Instead, any broken twigs will emit a fermented sap and wintergreen fragrance, an ingredient of Birch beer. Originally this variety had different names before it got its name.
#10. Weeping Birches (Betula Pendula Var.)
The Weeping Birch is very different, and they occur naturally or in cultivated varieties of the standard silver. The growing zones and how long they will grow will depend on the specific sort of this variety. A gorgeous late summer tree, but also solemn in a winter landscape. What an attractive tree! There are different Birch varieties this tree, but the common type includes:
- Golden Cloud Weeping (‘Golden Cloud’ B. pendula)
- Cutleaf Weeping –European (‘Gracilis’ B. pendula)
- Swedish (‘Dalecarlica’ B. pendula or ‘Laciniata’)
- Purple Weeping (‘Purpurea’ B. pendula)
- Young’s Weeping (‘Youngii’ B. pendula)
- Tristis Weeping (‘Tristis’ B. pendula)
- Curly (‘Carelica’ B. pendula)
#11. Silver Birch (B. Verrucosa)
The Silver Birch is beautiful and distinctive because its white bark peels off in papery strips. A single trunk tree slowly transforms into a pyramid shape and then later to a rounded oval crown. Other names attributed to this variety include European White and Weeping Birch. This tree was once used a lot for landscaping, but now others have taken the interests of landscapers. That means it is still used but not as much as in the past.
It is susceptible to the Bronze Birch Borer, so people don’t use it that much in landscaping nowadays. It is native to Asia and Europe, and its USDA growing zones are two to seven. It can also be developed in the eight and nine zones, but it will have a shorter life span in that area. It needs total sun exposure and does poorly in the shade. It also grows from a height of 40 to 80 feet, but that will depend on the cultivar.
#12. Gray Birch (Betula Populifolia)
Another most common Birch tree variety is the Grey Birch, commonly known as a lesser version of the Paper Birch. That is because the two of them look alike, but they have different types of traits. The most common difference between the two is that the grey variety has black markings on its bark. The grey type grows very quickly, even if you plant it in dry soil without efficient nutrients.
The tree grows well in most settings, and it needs a reasonable amount of sun for it to thrive. However, if you plant it in highly alkaline soils, they will end up developing chlorosis. The one disadvantage of this tree is that it is short-lived; it can only live to a maximum period of 25 years.
#13. Himalayan Birch (Betula Utilis Var. Jacquemontii)
What interests people in the Himalaya Birch is it’s pretty flowers when it comes to spring. When fall arrives, they become rich yellow, and the bark turns papery bright white. It is medium in size and has a single trunk, unlike the others. The trunk branches out with time forming a pyramid shape. The tree is very delicate as it is susceptible to the bronze Birch borer.
If you plant it in a warmer zone, then you will need replacement or removal to a cooler area. Transplanting it to a cooler site will give it a higher chance of survival as it will be heartier and will live long. Some other names of this tree include Jacquemonti Birch and White-Barked Himalayan. It is native to Nepal and the West Himalayan. Its USDA growing zones are four to seven, and it can grow from 30 to 50 feet. It does well in total sun exposure but can accommodate some light shade.
And there you have it, the list of 13 types of Birch trees you can cultivate to make your landscape look perfect. These trees are beautiful, and most of them can grow in different kinds of environments, making them very adaptable. Even though they are susceptible to the bronze Birch borer, they are still great as long as you prune and take care of them.
Hi, my name’s Elena Coolidge. I’m a DIY enthusiast who loves building fun woodworking plans. These DIY plans are fun hobby projects for enthusiasts or even more advanced builders that want to build things like bunk beds, end tables or even a duck box!