So you are driving along through mountain passes and valleys and someone in the car asks, “What kind of trees are those?” You glance out the window and see a tree that is tall, has a pale white trunk, and whose bark seems to be peeling off. “I dunno, maybe aspen?” Sorry, what you are seeing is a paper birch. There are several types of birch trees, upwards of eight actually, and each has at least one distinctive characteristic. Let us explore the four most common types!
PAPER BIRCH (also known as the canoe birch and the white birch)
This is a tall, narrow-trunked tree with a white trunk. The branches start a ways up the trunk, so they are difficult to climb. Leaves are a tear-drop shape that turn a lovely yellow in the autumn. The most impressive feature of these trees is how the bark peels off like paper- hence the name. As you might also guess, the trunks of these trees, when they have grown large enough, have been used for canoes! This is one of the more common trees in the northern areas of North America.
The yellow birch is distinct from the White or Paper birch in that the trunk is a deep green with lots of yellow highlights. Also, the bark does not peel off easily like paper. The bark is still distinctive, however, with parts that seem to be lifting up off of the trunk, much like the paper birch, but you will quickly find that the bark behaves differently. The leaves of the yellow birch turn a golden-yellow in the autumn and are longer and slightly more narrowed than the paper birch.
HERITAGE RIVER BIRCH
This is a tree that is known for its ability to grow quite fast and also to resist many common tree diseases. It’s bark is colorful- often tinged somewhat red, and it peels away like the paper birch. The leaves look basically like triangles with small teeth on the edges and they turn yellow in the autumn. You will find these, as you may guess, next to ponds, lakes and rivers.
This birch looks a lot like the paper birch, but can be found in greater numbers in the Eastern regions of the North America. The trunk is even whiter than the paper birch, with peeling bark as well. They grow fast like all birches and the leaves are more leathery than most other birches. However, other than that, the leaves are almost exactly like those of the paper birch.
There are more species of birch, but they are less common than those listed above. These other types include the European White, the Crimson Frost, the Red and the Weeping birch. Now, with your knowledge of some of North America’s most lovely and distinctive trees, you can impress the passengers in your car as you take road trips. Won’t that be nice?