What gray birch looks like

Size and shape

  • Small tree that can live for about 50 years.
  • Reaches 12 metres tall.
  • Trunk reaches 15 centimetres in diameter.
  • Trees usually grow in a clump with trunks leaning outwards.
  • Branches are thin and can bend into an ‘s’ shape with age.


  • Triangle-shaped leaves (4 to 7 centimetres long).
  • Have a long, pointy tip.


  • Dark reddish-brown when tree is young.
  • Turns a chalky white colour with age.


  • Yellow catkins bloom in spring.

Where gray birch is found

Gray birch is relatively sparse in Ontario. It grows as a native only in the eastern-most parts of the province but is now widely planted in Southern Ontario.

What you need to know to grow gray birch

  • Moisture: tolerates any moisture level.
  • Soil: grows best in sand or gravelly soil but can grow in many soil types.
  • Shade: requires full sun.
  • Note: birch trees grow quickly and are a great addition to a new garden.

Benefits and uses of gray birch

Wildlife benefits

Gray birch is a food source for several bird and mammal species:

  • songbirds eat the seeds
  • deer, moose and other mammals browse twigs and buds
  • porcupines and beavers eat the bark

Commercial uses

Birch species are popular for veneer and plywood. Wood from gray birch can also be used for:

  • boxes
  • crates
  • specialty wood items
  • fuel

Fun facts about gray birch

  • Unlike other birch trees, gray birch bark doesn’t peel off easily.
  • Historically, gray birch grew mostly in the Maritimes but over time is spreading north and west, growing on abandoned farmland.
  • Gray birch trees grow well in areas recently clear cut or burned.