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Katie Eberhart - Writing & Observations


Alaska Paper Birch

The latin name for birch is Betula papyrifera. Some botanists think that Alaska paper birch is different from paper birch so they sometimes call Alaska paper birch Betula neoalaskana. On these pages I'm going to refer to Alaska paper birch as birch.

It is a small to medium tree, 6 to 24 meters high and 10 to 61 centimeters in diameter. In favorable habitats, it may grow as large as 24 meters tall and 60 centimeters in diameter.

Twigs have many raised resinous dots Birch twig and are a dark reddish brown color.

Winter buds: The male flower catkin is short (2.5-4 cm) long, thick and greenish-brown. Male and female flowers occur on the same twig in groups of three:

Birch bark has many thin, horizontal stripes called lenticels and it peels away from the tree in thin papery strips. If you walk through the woods during a wind storm, you might hear fluttering noises as the wind flaps the strips of peeling bark. On younger trees the bark is a dark reddish-brown. As the trees age it tends to become more coppery colored. Old trees have thick, peeling gray-to-white bark.

Mid-sized birch trunk:Birch BarkOld birch trunk: Birch bark on an old tree

Fruits: cone-like, 2.5 to 3.5 cm long, and hairless.

Seeds: many, 1.5 mm long, brown with two broad wings.

Seasons: birch blooms in April and May, before the leaves are out. The seeds are shed during the first part of the winter and are especially noticeable after a wind storm, scattered across the snow.

Ecology: Seeds provide winter food source for seed eating birds such as Chickadees and Redpolls.

Birch trunks often are clustered close together because they are sprouts from around the base of an old tree that blew over.

Range: In the Matanuska Valley Paper Birch grows on the "rolling bench lands" up to elevations of about 800 feet. It is found in combination with spruce, cottonwood, alder and willow.

Economic uses: firewood, "rough cut" lumber and better quality lumber for flooring and cabinets.

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This page last updated June 4, 2006



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