Betula utilis
Common name: 
Himalayan Birch
Bhojpatra (Indian Himalaya)
Indian Paper Birch
BET-u-la EW-ti-lis
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
  • Small shrubs or trees, 6.5-50 ft (2-15 m) tall, or even to 115 ft (35 m).  Bark white, red-brown or reddish-white, exfoliating in thin flakes or peeling horizontally.  Young shoots pubescent, older glabrous, bark brown, resinous.  Leaves ovate or rhomboid, 2.5-8.2 cm x 1.8-6.2 cm, base rounded, subcordate or cuneate, margin doubly serrate to sub-serrate, the upper surface sparsely pubescent, under surface with long hairs at the conjunction of veins and midrib, 8-14 vein pairs. Female inflorescence 1, or 2 or 3 in a raceme, pendulous, oblong-cylindric, 7-12 mm long.  Male flowers in catkins 3-3.7 cm x 4 mm.  Nut elliptic—ovate, 2.5-3 mm long, as broad as or broader than the wing. Wing sometimes with 1-2 linear appendages at the apex.

  • Full sun to part shade, best  in moist, acidic, well-drained loams, adapted to cool northern climates, suffers in humid, hot summers, sensitive to the bronze birch borer (BBB) and not recommended for areas were this pest is established
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4    Widely spread in Central Asia, from Kazakhstan through Afghanistan and the Himalayas of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan to central China.  A sacred plant in the Himalaya region.
  • Taxonomy: ​ David Don (1799-1841) described and named Beula utilis in 1825 from specimens collected in Nepal.  It is a very polymorphic species as regards the shape and the number of veins of the leaf, size of the male catkins and the nature of the fruiting scale, which gradually change from the Western to the Eastern limit of its distribution range. Some consider this to be an aggregate species, i.e., a species that represents a range of very closely related organisms.  There is so much variation in the different parts that it merges into Betula utilis and it is hard to separate these from one another (Flora of Pakistan).  The views of three botanical organizations regarding Betula utilis
    • World Flora:  Betula utilis D. Don
      • Synonym
        • Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis
      • Includes
        • Betula utilis var. jacquemontii
    • Flora of China:  Betula utilis D. Don
      • Synonym
        • Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis
        • Betula bhojpattra
    • Flora of Pakistan:  Betula utilis D. DonS
      • Synonym
        • Betula bhojpattra
        • Betula jacquemontii
        • Betula utilis var. jacquemontii
  • ​​utilis: useful, refers to the many uses for the wood, which is very hard, heavy, and brittle, and different parts of the tree.  The inner bark is used as paper,  mainly for the inscription of religious texts, and in packaging, this and other parts are used in medical treatments.   Leaves are used as cattle feed.
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