Content Detail

This cultivar demonstrates good resistance to bronze birch borer (BBB). The name ‘Whitespire’ was incorrectly assigned to Betula platyphylla. It is now assigned to Betula populifolia, and the plants are often sold under the name ‘Whitespire Senior’ to avoid confusion. This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

  • Family (English) Birch
  • Family (botanic) Betulaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 30-40 feet
  • Mature width 20-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Game birds, Sapsuckers, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars NA

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Whitespire Senior gray birch is a cultivar of a tree native to the northeastern United States.

Bark color and texture: 

The bark of young trees has a reddish-brown color, while older trees develop a chalky white bark that does not peel. Black triangular patches form on the bark under branches.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

The simple, alternate leaves are 2 to 3 inches long. They are dark green, triangular-shaped, shiny, and pendulous. The margins are double serrated and the leaf tip is long and pointed. The fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

The flowers are inconspicuous. Male flowers are held in cylindrical catkins. The female flowers are also in a cylindrical structure, but are much smaller.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Cylindrical clusters of winged nutlets are borne at the ends of the branches and are 2 to 3 inches long.

Plant care: 

A medium sized tree that is tolerant of hot, dry summers and poor soils. It is considered to have a short life span. The cultivar ‘Whitespire’ is more desirable than the species. Avoid pruning birches in spring as they are bleeders (will lose quantities of sap). It is best planted  in spring.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Leaf miners and cankers are possible problems. Chlorosis may occur in high pH soils. It is resistant to bronze birch borer and tolerant of air pollution.


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