Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~200
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Paper birth is an iconic native tree typically grown as an ornamental, but also tapped for its sap (like maple), consumed as food (inner bark, young leaves, shoots, & catkins), and made into beverages (like birch beer). It can even provide raw material for an old-fashioned birch-bark canoe!
Birch trees generally reach around 60 feet tall, but can reach over 100. The signature bark is white and usually flakes off in horizontal strips (though young trees lack this trait). Incredibly cold hardy, it can thrive as cold as Zone 2 or 3, and its natural range extends all the way to Greenland. Our seeds come from the state of Montana, via Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.
The great folks at Plants for a Future have outlined the extensive edible uses of this plant:
"Inner bark - raw or cooked. Best in the spring. The inner bark can also be dried and ground into a meal and used as a thickener in soups or be added to flour and used in making bread, biscuits etc. Inner bark is generally only seen as a famine food, used when other forms of starch are not available or are in short supply. Sap - raw or cooked. A sweet flavour. Harvested in early spring, before the leaves unfurl, by tapping the trunk [like maple]. The flow is best on warm sunny days following a hard frost. The sap usually runs freely, but the sugar content is lower than in sugar maples. A pleasant sweet drink, it can also be concentrated into a syrup or sugar by boiling off much of the water. The sap can also be fermented to make birch beer or vinegar. An old English recipe for the beer is as follows: "To every Gallon of Birch-water put a quart of Honey, well stirr'd together; then boil it almost an hour with a few Cloves, and a little Limon-peel, keeping it well scumm'd. When it is sufficiently boil'd, and become cold, add to it three or four Spoonfuls of good Ale to make it work...and when the Test begins to settle, bottle it up . . . it is gentle, and very harmless in operation within the body, and exceedingly sharpens the Appetite, being drunk ante pastum." Very young leaves, shoots and catkins - raw or cooked. A tea is made from the young leaves and also from the root bark."
Not only is it beautiful, it's practically a supermarket!
GROWING TIPS: Cold stratify seeds for 60 days. Requires light for germination, so surface sow and keep moist. Trees prefer moist soil that ranges from sandy to loamy, and neutral to acidic. Zones 2-7. Full or partial sun.