Broadleaf, deciduous tree; to 30- 65 ft (10-20 m) tall, upright branches to a columnar shape. Bark peels in thin papery strips, dull white to pale brown. Leaves simple, alternate, 3-6 cm long and 3-5 cm wide, ovate to rhombic, margin coarsely serrate to unevenly doubly serrate, apex straight, base tapered to rounded to wedge-shaped; when young, a thin, soft pubescence on both surfaces as well as the petiole; yellow fall color. Fruit catkins are about 3 cm long with pubescent scales.
Sun to partial shade, best on moist, well-drained soil, not fussy about soil type
Hardy to USDA Zone 2 Betula pubescens has a very wide distribution. Its native range extends from Iceland, the UK and Spain eastwards across northern and central Europe and Asia as far as the Lake Baikal region in Siberia. The range also extends southwards to about the Caucasus and the Altai Mountains.
Downy Birch (B. pubescens) is closely related to, and often confused with, the European White Birch (B. pendula). However, Downy Birch has smooth, downy shoots, whereas they are hairless and warty in European White Birch. Young leaves of Downy Birch are thinly pubescent. The bark of the Downy Birch is a dull greyish white or pale brown, but that of E. White Birch is striking white, papery, with black fissures. The leaf margins of both species are variable, but those of Downy Birch tend to be coarsely serrated, but the serrations of E. White Birch are more often double-toothed. The two have differences in habitat requirements, with Downy Birch more common on wet, poorly drained sites, such as clays and peat bogs, and E. White Birch found mainly on dry, sandy soils. Here is a link to a further comparison of these species: https://forest.jrc.ec.europa.eu/media/atlas/Betula_spp.pdf
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