The paper birch is easily recognizable by its distinct white, paper-like bark that peels away from the trunk. The distinctive leaves with serrated edges turn from green to a bright yellow in the fall. This tree appears across North America in a variety of habitat types, especially where fires have created openings in forests. Although most paper birch trees grow to about 60 feet tall, they can occasionally grow more than 130 feet.
Paper birch is a shallow-rooted tree, with most roots not found more than 2 feet into the ground. While this species prefers well-drained soils, it can be somewhat tolerant of drought as well as swampy, wet conditions, making it well-suited for most rain garden habitats. A variety of animals, especially birds, eat the birch seeds. Cavity nesting birds also can find a home in the paper birch. Even hummingbirds will take advantage of holes created by yellow-bellied sapsuckers to feed on the tree’s sap.
(Click on images for a larger view.)