Birch

 Birch (Betula), genus of TREES and shrubs of birch family (Betulaceae). About 50 species are found in Arctic and northern temperate regions worldwide. Ten species are native to Canada: 6 trees and 4 shrubs. Several species, especially the white or paper birch, are widespread throughout the country; other birches are regional (yellow and grey, East; cherry, Ontario; Alaska and water, Northwest). Leaves are alternate, oval to triangular in shape and veined, and have teeth of 2 sizes on the margins.

Birches are best known for their paperlike bark. Most species prefer well-drained soils and good lighting. Paper and grey birches are pioneering species in abandoned fields and burned-over areas. European silver or weeping birch is a popular ORNAMENTAL. Canadian natives used birches, especially paper birch, for CANOES, baskets and kitchen utensils. Today the wood is widely used for furniture and veneers.

See also PLANTS, NATIVE USES.