Some common types of birch trees can be found in every part of the continental United States, as well as throughout Canada and Alaska. Dozens of species of birch exist, all part of the genus Betula. Among the most common types of birch trees in North America are the paper birch, the river birch, the water birch and the yellow birch. All are medium-sized to large trees bearing ovate, serrated leaves that turn yellow in autumn.
The paper birch is a shade-intolerant tree also known as white birch, silver birch or canoe birch. When the tree is young, the bark is smooth and pale with darker striations where the raised pores occur. At maturity, the bark peels away in white, papery strips, revealing the copper brown surface beneath. Paper birches are found throughout most of Canada and the northern half of the United States, ranging as far south as Tennessee and the Carolinas.
Also called the red birch owing to the color of its bark, the river birch is found throughout the eastern half of the United States, as far west as Texas and as far north as Minnesota.
Primarily found in the western part of North America (though extending as far east as Ontario on the northern end of its range), the water birch is smaller than many of its relatives, usually growing no more than 20 feet tall and retaining a shrub-like appearance.
With a range similar to that of the river birch, the yellow birch is important as a food source for forest browsers such as deer and moose, and as a lumber source for humans.