Discover 10 different types of birch trees
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Characterized by its signature white bark and horizontal markings, there are several different types of birch trees. In fact, birches are divided into several different subgenuses, with dozens of species within each subgroup. Whether you want to learn more about birch trees to help you identify them while hiking, or you're considering planting one in your own backyard, there are countless species of birch trees to consider.
Given that birch trees hybridize easily with each other, it's not surprising to hear that there are at least 50 different types of birch trees. Here's how birch trees are usually classified, along with a list of some of the most popular and common types of these amazing trees. let's start!
While many different schools of thought revolve around birch or the genus Betula , birches are often classified as subgenuses. Below are some of the subgenus types considered by birch experts.
If you've ever recognized a birch tree by its white peeling bark, chances are high that you've seen a typical birch tree. Simply classified as birch, the typical birch category contains some of the most common species of birch, including silver birch and silver birch.
Dwarf birches are classified in the subgenus Chamaebetula and are usually less than 20 feet tall. In fact, most dwarf birch trees are considered shrubs, covered in hairy deciduous foliage. Also, most dwarf birch tree types have dwarf in their names, so they are easy to identify.
Did you know that certain species of birch produce oil of wintergreen? With its distinctive mint flavor and commercially grown mint delicacy, wintergreen birch is important for its wood, oil, and even for decoration. Some of the most popular birches are holly birches, including yellow birch and sweet birch.
Most Common and Popular Types of Birch Trees
Fast growing and important to many animal species, including moths or butterflies, here is a list of some of the most common and noteworthy types of birch trees!
Paper birch is scientifically classified as paper birch and is also known as paper bark because of its unique trunk and bark. Thrive in hardiness zones 5 and below, paper birch loves colder climates. These birch trees are known to be short-lived in hotter regions, with an average lifespan of 30-50 years.
Although they are classified as Betula pendula , silver birches are also known as European white birch, weeping birch, or warty birch because of their distinctly textured trunks. These particular birches are widely distributed around the world and prefer higher elevations and sunny locations. In addition, this birch is the national tree of Finland.
With trunks up to 100 feet tall, river birch trees are different from common birch trees. Classified as the black birch or water birch, Betula nigra is native to North America and, as its name suggests, thrives along waterways. It also has a darker bark than most other birches.
Betula utilis or Himalayan birch literally means "useful birch" and has a long history. Its bark was used as paper for ancient writing and is still used in a similar way today. As its name suggests, this birch tree is native to the Himalayas and is found in lush conditions up to 15,000 feet!
Another type of birch that thrives at high altitudes or low temperatures, dwarf silver birch is more of a shrub than a tree. Reaching a height of 4 feet, these compact beauties turn beautiful colors in fall to match the distinctive red bark.
Chinese red birch
Betula albosinensis comes in several varieties and is an excellent ornamental birch worth considering. Commonly known as Chinese Red Birch, this birch tree is native to China and reaches a height of less than 90 feet. It also produces creamy and reddish bark that forms horizontal stripes like other iconic birch species.
Also known as bog or golden birch, yellow birch is a commercially grown lumber. If you live in hardiness zones 3-7, you might consider growing this birch variety because it likes colder climates. Additionally, this birch species is beautiful with gray hairy bark and a long lifespan.
Another dwarf birch species worth mentioning is the swamp birch. Classified as Betula pumila , this birch tree is only 10-15 feet tall. Native to North America, it can grow throughout the country, along waterways, and thrives in humid regions such as the Pacific Northwest.
Not to be confused with silver birch, downy birch is also known as European birch. Although they are closely related, downy birches are scientifically classified as Betula pubescens and exhibit some differences in how they grow. It is an important tree species for many insect and animal populations because it grows in northern areas where many trees cannot be planted.
Often picked for its sap and oil of wintergreen, sweet birch is widely grown. It is an exceptionally heavy and large birch species used for lumber production and sap production. Sweet birch trees that grow on the East Coast can live for over 300 years.
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about the author
I am a non-binary freelance writer working full time in Oregon. A graduate of Southern Oregon University with a BA in Theater and a major in Creative Writing, I have an interest in a variety of topics, especially the history of the Pacific Northwest. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping on the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my family's kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast-iron skillet.
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- Molecular Phylogenetics and Genome Size Evolution of Betula (Betulaceae), Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4866320/