Gray Birch - Betula populifolia

The Gray Birch only grows to about 12m and can live about 50 years. This pioneer species loves open, dry soils, and loves to colonize open areas, including those created by human disturbances.  The specific name populifolia means ‘with poplar-like leaves’. Grey Birch leaves are similarly shaped to poplar species, and will tremble in the smallest breeze.  Small mammals and birds love the seeds and catkins of the Gray Birch, which form in the fall and mature the following spring.

Gray Birch Trunk
Gray Birch trees often have distinct black patches underneath their branches, due to the fungus Pseudospropes longipilus. Photo by Chris Earley.

Gray Birch Leaves
These unique birch leaves are triangular with a distinct slender tip. These triangular leaves measure 4-7 cm long and are shiny green on both sides. A unique aspect of the Gray Birch is that there are two distinct sizes of leaves and the larger ones sometimes appear to have lobes. Photo by Chris Earley.

Gray Birch Pollen Catkins
The pollen catkins of the Gray Birch are usually found in isolation and measure around 2 cm in the winter and can grow up to 10 cm during pollination.

Grey Birch Bud
These buds are pointed and semi uniform exhibiting a light brown-grey colour and are usually hairy. Photo by Sean Fox.

Ontario Tree Atlas map of non-planted Gray Birch. 1995-1999.
Ontario Tree Atlas map of non-planted Gray Birch. 1995-1999.

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Farrar, J.L.. 1995. Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. Toronto. ON. 504 pp.  

Kershaw, L. 2001. Trees in Ontario: Including tall shrubs. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton. AB. 240 pp

Muma, W. 2011. Ontario Trees and Shrubs. [Online] Available:

OMNR, 2011. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: Ontario Tree Atlas. [Online] Available:

OMNR, 2008. Ontario’s Biodiversity: Species at Risk.