Betula populifolia

Gray Birch, Old Field Birch




  • native to northeastern United States and northeastern Canada
  • zone 3
  • common on poor, sandy soils
  • an early colonizer of poor sites, road cuts, burned areas.

Habit and Form

  • deciduous small to medium tree
  • 20' to 40' tall with only a 10' to 20' spread
  • narrow conical crown
  • grows rapidly
  • often multiple stemmed and used as a "clump" birch
  • fine texture

Summer Foliage

  • alternate, simple leaves, 2" to 3.5" long leaves
  • doubly serrate margins
  • long acuminate tip on ovate or triangular leaf
  • dark green and glabrous
  • leafs out early

Autumn Foliage

  • yellow
  • generally showy


  • blooms in April, but catkins visible prior to bloom
  • monoecious: male and female catkins
  • male catkins 2" to 3.5" long; borne singly, rarely in twos


  • small nutlets held in cylindrical catkins, 0.75" to 1.25" long


  • reddish brown, thin and smooth on young trunks
  • chalky white with prominent black triangular patches at the base of each branch
  • does not peel very readily


  • very easy to grow
  • tolerant of most soils, especially dry, gravely soils
  • high pH soils should be avoided to prevent chlorosis

Landscape Use

  • for poor soil sites
  • difficult sites
  • naturalized area
  • where guide tree growth is needed
  • conservation areas
  • possible for bark, but better birches around
  • somewhat resistant to bronze birch borer


  • birch leaf miner is very disfiguring to the foliage and major limitation. It does not kill the plant however
  • tends to be short lived
  • very prone to being bent over or snapped off by ice storms of heavy snows

ID Features

  • acuminate leaf tips
  • black triangular patches on bark at branch bases
  • conical in shape and small size
  • severe leaf minor damage on leaves


  • by seed; cold or light will break dormancy


  • None of significance

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.