Arbust. Amer., 19. 1785
Phenology: Flowering late spring.
Habitat: Moist, ± open, upland forest, especially on rocky slopes, also sometimes in swampy woods
Elevation: 300–900 m
St. Pierre and Miquelon, Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld., N.W.T., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask., Yukon, Alaska, Colo., Conn., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Maine, Mass., Mich., Minn., Mont., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.Dak., Oreg., Pa., R.I., S.Dak., Vt., Va., Wash., Wis., Wyo.
Betula papyrifera is a well-known tree of the northern forest with its paper-thin, white, peeling bark. The bark, which has a high oil content and is consequently waterproof, was used for a wide variety of building and clothing purposes by the American Indians, including the covering of the familiar birch bark canoe. It is still used for various purposes, including basketmaking, in Canada and Alaska. Variants having more or less close, dark brown bark (B. papyrifera </i>var.<i> commutata) occur locally throughout the wide range of this species; this characteristic appears to be largely environmentally caused. The species is an important successional tree, coming up readily after fires, logging, or the abandonment of cultivated land. The relatively soft, whitish wood is used extensively for such items as clothespins, spools, ice cream sticks, and toothpicks, as well as for pulpwood for paper.
Betula papyrifera is the state tree of New Hampshire.
Native Americans use Betula papyrifera medicinally in enemas, to shrivel the womb, to alleviate stomach cramps and pain, and as a tonic (D. E. Moerman 1986).
Betula ×sandbergii Britton is a fairly common hybrid, occurring where the ranges of the parents (B. papyrifera Marshall and B. pumila Linnaeus) come into contact. In most vegetative features it is intermediate between the parental conditions (K. E. Clausen 1963; C. O. Rosendahl 1928).