USA Official State Tree of New Hampshire

Paper Birch

Tree, a state symbol  (Betulaceae Betula papyrifera)
Adopted in 1947.


The White birch, Betulaceae Betula papyrifera,  became the Granite State's official tree in the 1947 Legislature without argument or opposition.


It was sponsored by Senator J. Guy Smart of Durham, on behalf of the New Hampshire Federation of Garden Clubs, of which Mrs. Helen C. Funkhauser of Durham was president. They easily piloted the birch tree bill through the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it was signed into law on May 22 by Governor Charles M. Dale of Portsmouth.

The white birch is also called the canoe birch or the paper birch, for understandable reasons. Indians used its bark to make canoes, and it was also used for writing paper.




The official state tree was labeled "Queen Of The Woods," by Evelyn W. Cortez, in an article in the December, 1947, issue of New Hampshire Troubadour, the one-time esteemed state government booklet, which said in part:

    There are several reasons for choosing the white birch for the state tree. Not only is it native to New Hampshire -- a first consideration -- but it is found in all regions of the state, growing as it does on rich-wooded slopes and along the borders of lakes and streams. It is a characteristic part of the scenery.

The beauty of the white birch is dramatic against the green of other trees. While all birches are sturdy and graceful and may grow tall, the canoe, or white birch sometimes reaches a height of 80 feet. Its bark is chalky to cream white, tinged with yellow, and peels in thin film-like layers. Its leaves are broadly oval on short, stout leaf stalks. The cylindrical fruit spikes usually droop in contrast to the more commonly erect fruit of the other birches.

    New Hampshire Revised Statute Annotated (RSA) 3:6
    Anderson, Leon. History. Manual for the General Court 1981.

Typical paper birch (Betula papyrifera var. papyrifera), also called white birch, canoe birch, or silver birch, and the other five intergrading geographical varieties, western paper birch (B. papyrifera var. commutata (Regel) Fern.), mountain paper birch (B. papyrifera var. cordifolia (Regel) Fern.), Kenai birch (B. papyrifera var. kenaica (W. H. Evans) Henry), Alaska paper birch (B. papyrifera var. neoalaskana (Sarg.) Raup), and northwestern paper birch (B. papyrifera var. subcordata (Rydb.) Sarg.) are the most widely distributed birches in North America, mostly in Canada. These medium-sized, fast-growing trees develop best on well-drained, sandy loams on cool moist sites. They are commonly found in the mixed hardwood-conifer forests but may form nearly pure stands where they pioneer areas disturbed by fires or logging. Paper birch is short-lived and rarely lives more than 140 years. Commercially the lumber is used for veneer, pulpwood, and many specialty items. The handsome foliage and showy white bark make the trees attractive for landscaping. They are important browse plants for animals, and the seeds, buds, and bark are also eaten by wildlife.

  • Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, ovate in shape, with coarsely doubly serrate margins, an acute tip and rounded base.
  • Flower: Preformed aments, male near the end of the twig in 2's or 3's, 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches long. Female flowers are upright, 1 to 1 1/4 inches long. Flowers April to June.
  • Fruit: Cone like, cylindrical 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, deciduous at maturity, releasing elliptical 2-winged nutlets. Matures in the autumn, disperses over winter.
  • Twig: Slender, dull red-brown, lacking wintergreen smell when cut. Terminal bud absent, lateral buds are gummy, chestnut brown in color. Spur shoots present on older growth.
  • Bark: Smooth, thin, chalky-to-creamy white; peeling in horizontal papery strips. Brown to black and furrowed at base. Orange inner bark.
  • Form: A medium-sized tree with a pyramidal or irregular crown.
Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass Hamamelidae –
Order Fagales –
Family Betulaceae – Birch family
Genus Betula L. – birch
Species Betula papyrifera Marsh. – paper birch


Dendrology at Virginia Tech
U.S. Department of Agriculture