This white birch is best grown in medium to wet, well-drained, sandy or rocky loams in full sun to part shade. Although it prefers full sun in its native habitat, in the eastern US, it is best sited in a northern or eastern exposure that receives some afternoon shade. It responds best to consistently moist soils.
Betula platyphylla, commonly called white birch or Asian white birch, is native to Manchuria, Korea and Japan. It is closely related to B. pendula. It is a medium to large sized tree that typically grows to 30-40’ (less frequently to 70’) tall with a pyramidal habit. It is noted for its white bark, thin spreading branches and slightly pendant branchlets. Ovate, glabrous, toothed, yellowish-green leaves (to 3” long) have tapered tips. Fall color is usually yellow. Tiny male and female flowers appear in early spring in separate catkins on the same tree: yellowish-brown male flowers in drooping catkins (to 3” long) and greenish female flowers in smaller, upright catkins (to 1 1/4” long). Female flowers are followed by drooping cone-like fruits containing numerous small winged seeds that typically mature in late summer. Young twigs have resinous glands.
Although white birches have some susceptibility to aphids, birch leaf miner, birch skeletonizer and dieback, these problems are usually considered to be somewhat minor in comparison to the birch borer. Plants stressed by insects seem more susceptible, but this species is reputed to be the most resistant of all the white birches to the birch borer.
Our seed came from a birch planted on the campus of Harford Community College in 1976, that despite being hit numerous times by lawn mowers, lived until 2014 and finally succumbed to that damage.
The wood showed no sign of birch borer damage when inspected.