Thursday, February 18, 2010

Paper Birch

Here's one of the younger paper birches in the cemetery. Betula papyrifera usually has several stems and can have either a conical or an irregular crown. This specimen has a single stem with branches starting low on the trunk.

The white bark peels in papery sheets. At first the bark underneath is orange, but it whitens with time. Harriet Keeler, in Our Native Trees, says that the paper birch "possesses the most wonderful bark of any of our native trees." Personally, I would make an argument for beech bark, but paper birch bark comes in a close second. Although it's papery, it's quite strong. Native Americans used it to make canoes. It can also be written and painted on.

This accumulation of exfoliated bark looks like burnt newspaper.

The long horizontal lenticels in the bark allow for the exchange of gases.

Here are the pre-formed male catkins. The female catkins will emerge in the spring as the male catkins elongate. If you click on the photo, you can see that twigs are reddish-brown and dotted with small lenticels.

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