About 60 species of deciduous trees and shrubs. Bark on trunks is frequently white or shades of gray to pink and brown. Leaves are alternate, usually ovate, serrate, dentate or lobed. Flowers monoecious, male catkins are long and cylindrical, well developed in fall, lengthen and release pollen in spring; the smaller female catkins are on shorter side shoots; The female cones are not woody, as are female alder cones, and disintegrate at maturity, falling apart to release the seeds. The seeds are mostly in 3's per catkin scale and are released with the scales in early fall. Found in the North temperate and arctic regions.
Betula: the Latin name. (Bundles of thin branches, common in Betula, were used as a whip for punishment, known as "the birch"!)