Dry soil is perfect for Gray Birch! It will grow in dry, sterile, sandy, rocky, and even wet soil. In fact, it will grow almost anywhere except highly alkaline (high pH) soil. Grey Birch needs full sun, and is considered a ‘pioneer’ species, in that it can quickly establish in difficult areas. It is a fast grower. Like all pioneer species, and is relatively short-lived (15-25 years).
It is typically a multi-stemmed tree whose delicate, pointed leaves waver in the wind. The bark is dull white to gray, an attractive statement year round. In appearance it is similar to the non-native European White Birch, although it does not shed its bark.
Several species of caterpillar and butterfly rely on Gray Birch for larval food. So don’t worry if you see some nibbled leaves. Pine Siskin and Black-Capped Chickadees feed on the seed. Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers go after the sap.
We grew our crop of gray birch from locally collected seed. They are in 3-gallon pots and between 3′ and 5′ tall. Once planted, they will put on growth quickly. Use gray birch for naturalizing, screening, and to rehabilitate disturbed land.