Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Betula populifolia


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Coladonato, Milo. 1992. Betula populifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : BETPOP SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : BEPO COMMON NAMES : gray birch grey birch white birch wire birch fire birch oldfield birch TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for gray birch is Betula populifolia Marsh. [22]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : See OTHER STATUS OTHER STATUS : In Maryland gray birch is known from only three or four contiguous stations or populations within the boundaries of the state. In Delaware gray birch is listed as being extinct [3,33].


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The range of gray birch extends west from Nova Scotia to southern Ontario, and south to New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Disjunct populations occur in northern Ohio, Virginia, and western North Carolina [6,9,22,33]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES10  White - red - jack pine    FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine    FRES14  Oak - pine    FRES16  Oak - gum - cypress    FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch    FRES19  Aspen - Birch STATES :      CT  DE  IN  ME  MD  MA  NH  NJ  NY  NC      OH  PA  RI  VT  VA  NB  NF  NS  ON  PE      PQ BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K096  Northeastern spruce - fir forest    K101  Elm - ash forest    K102  Beech - maple forest    K104  Appalachian oak forest    K106  Northern hardwoods    K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest    K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest SAF COVER TYPES :      5  Balsam fir     19  Gray birch - red maple     21  Eastern white pine     22  White pine - hemlock     25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch     32  Red spruce     33  Red spruce - balsam fir     35  Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir     39  Black ash - American elm - red maple     45  Pitch pine     46  Eastern redcedar     97  Atlantic white-cedar SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Gray birch is listed as a common associate of the aspen-birch (Populus spp.-Betula spp.) and the beech-birch-maple (Fagus spp.-Betula spp.-Acer spp.) communities in the northeastern hardwood forest, but it is not an indicator of any particular habitat type [21].


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Gray birch is easily worked with tools and is an excellent wood for turning.  It is used for woodenware such as spools, clothespins, and novelties.  Gray birch is much less valued than paper birch (B. papyrifera) because of its small size, short life, and limited distribution.  Its wood is often used for fuel, and stands can be cut for firewood at comparatively frequent intervals because of its ability to regenerate quickly [7,17]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Beavers and porcupines chew on the bark and wood of gray birch. Sapsuckers feed on the sap, and songbirds such as the pine siskin and chickadee feed on the seeds.  The ruffed grouse eat the male catkins and buds [7,26].  The twigs provide winter browse for snowshoe hare, moose, and white-tailed deer [30]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : In Maine, gray birch provides hiding cover for the bobcat and hare [23]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Its status as a pioneer species and its adaptability to disturbed sites indicate that gray birch is a good hardwood species for use in revegetating mine spoils and other disturbed areas.  It has been planted successfully on acid coal mine spoils in Pennsylvania [35]. Propagation:  Gray birch can be propagated by grafting of cuttings. Cuttings from seedlings root sooner and at higher rates, although no percentages have been given [6,19]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : The pleasing form, white bark, graceful slender branches, and delicate foliage make gray birch an attractive tree for ornamental purposes.  Its desirability is lessened only by its short life and liability to storm injury [7].  Gray birch also has some value as a "nurse tree" for the more valuable pines that require protection to become established [17]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Gray birch is not a valued timber species due to its small size and limited distribution [17].  It is short-lived and does not compete with more desirable commercial trees in any part of its range [14].  With the exception of injury caused by leaf miner, gray birch is free from diseases.  It is often seriously injured by ice and snow [7].


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Gray birch is a fast-growing, short-lived, deciduous tree commonly attaining heights of 20 to 30 feet (6-9 m) [5].  Its short, slender, contorted branches form a narrow pyramidal crown.  The alternate leaves occur singly or in pairs on thin, gray twigs.  The leaves are long and pointed with double-toothed margins.  The male flowers are borne on yellow catkins hanging from the twigs.  The female catkins are erect on the stems which develop into drooping, stalked cones with many small nutlike winged seeds.  The trunk is dark, rough, and irregularly broken by shallow fissures.  The roots are shallow [6,7,9,17]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :       Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed production and dissemination.  Gray birch reproduces mainly by seed.  It begins producing seed at 8 years of age with abundant seed crops every year.  The seed crops germinate readily.  The light, winged seeds are dispersed by the wind and some seeds travel great distances [1,10].  Gray birch is a prolific seed producer and will form a seed bank in the soil [14,18]. Vegetative reproduction.  Gray birch sprouts from the stump when cut or following fire.  Sprouting usually occurs when young trees have been cut in the spring leaving stumps of about 2 inches (5 cm) in height [17]. Stump sprouts can be a valuable seed source since sprouts alone are usually not numerous enough to adequately reproduce mature gray birch stands [1,7]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Gray birch is found on a wide variety of sites.  It grows best on moist, well-drained soil along streams, ponds, lakes, and swamps but also grows on dry sandy or gravelly soil.  Gray birch grows on inorganic soils of rocky slopes and hillsides, but its growth is usually retarded on these sites [6,8,17]. Common tree associates of gray birch are blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), black oak (Quercus velutina), red oak (Q. borealis), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), American holly (Ilex opaca), black cherry (Prunus serotina), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), and aspen (Populus tremuloides).  Common understory associates include hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), and Canada serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) [22,27,29,36]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Obligate Initial Community Species. Gray birch is a pioneer species.  It is an early seral species in oldfield succession or following clearcutting in northern hardwood forests.  Gray birch is shade intolerant and eventually gives way to a fir-spruce (Abies spp.-Picea spp.) forest community [12,18].  On undisturbed sites, climax succession is toward a maple-beech forest community [18]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Gray birch flowers between April and May; the fruit ripens from September to October.  The seed is dispersed from October through the middle of winter [2].


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Fire, which can help establish gray birch, can also be quite damaging. The thin bark of gray birch is very flammable, so the tree is easily injured by fire [4,31].  Starker [32] lists gray birch as low in resistance to fire, ranking it 17th out of 22 fire-resistant hardwoods in the northeastern United States.  Gray birch is able sprout from the root crown after aboveground portions are killed by fire [13]. Gray birch's abundant wind-dispersed seed is important in colonizing burns.  Also, gray birch is likely to accumulate abundant seed in the soil.  Seedling establishment following fire is probable from such seed banks. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker    Secondary colonizer - on-site seed    Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Gray birch is usually top-killed by low- to moderate-severity fires. During periods of drought when organic soils can become extremely dry, a hot, slow-moving ground fire can burn all the organic matter and consume the shallow roots, thus killing the tree [4,31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Gray birch will sprout from the stump following fire [1,25]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Betula populifolia
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The separation of Betula populifolia        and Betula pendula and their status in Ontario. Canadian Journal of        Forest Research. 18: 1017-1026.  [9319]  6.  Chapman, William K.; Bessette, Alan E. 1990. Trees and shrubs of the        Adirondacks. Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc. 131 p.  [12766]  7.  Collingwood, G. H. 1937. Knowing your trees. Washington, DC: The        American Forestry Association. 213 p.  [6316]  8.  DeHond, Patricia E.; Campbell, Christopher S. 1989. Multivariate        analyses of hybridization between Betula cordifolia and B. populifolia        (Betulaceae). Canadian Journal of Botany. 67: 2252-2260.  [9361]  9.  Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern        United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p.        [12764] 10.  Edwards, Thomas I. 1932. Temperature relations of seed germination.        Quarterly Review of Biology. 7: 428-443.  [10910] 11.  Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. 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Browse availability after conifer release in Maine's        spruce-fir forests. Journal of Wildlife Management. 53(3): 643-649.        [8401] 27.  Ogden, J. Gordon, III. 1962. Forest history of Martha's Vineyard,        Massachusetts. I. Modern and pre-colonial forests. American Midland        Naturalist. 66(2): 417-430.  [10118] 28.  Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant        geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p.  [2843] 29.  Rudolf, Paul O. 1990. Pinus resinosa Ait.  red pine. In: Burns, Russell        M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North        America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S.        Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 442-455.  [13246] 30.  Shaw, Samuel P. 1969. Management of birch for wildlife habitat. In: The        birch symposium: Proceedings; 1969 August 19-21; Durham, NH. Res. Pap.        NE-146. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 181-183.  [15355] 31.  Starker, T. J. 1932. Fire resistance of trees of northeast United        States. Forest Worker. 8(3): 8-9.  [81] 32.  Starker, T. J. 1934. Fire resistance in the forest. Journal of Forestry.        32: 462-467.  [82] 33.  Tucker, Arthur O.; Dill, Norman H.; Broome, C. Rose; [and others]. 1979.        Rare and endangered vascular plant species in Delaware. Newton Corner,        MA: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 89 p.        [16518] 34.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982.        National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names.        SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p.  [11573] 35.  Vogel, Willis G. 1981. A guide for revegetating coal minesoils in the        eastern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-68. 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