The Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) is found from Labrador to Hudson Bay,
from the Great Bear Lake, Yukon River and Coast of Alaska, southward to New York (Long Island) and northern Pennsylvania, central Michigan, and Minnesota, northern Nebraska (bluffs of Niobrara River), Dakota (Black Mills), northern Montana, and northwestern Washington (near Seattle). It can grow up to 80 feet (24 m) tall and has broad, oval leaves on short branches.
In addition to “Paper Birch,” in New Hampshire this tree is also called “Canoe or White” birch. Among the many things that the bark of this tree has been used for includes:
— Native Peoples used birch bark to create canoes and homes. It was even used during their burial rites. “Maskwa” was the Algonquin word for birch trees.
— Early NH settlers used birch bark as kindling for campfires, and markers when surveying land (due to their unusual appearance). The History of Raymond New Hampshire states that the earliest paper used in their schools were made of birch bark (especially when a slate was not available).
— The eldest daughter of Deacon Ebenezer and Temperance (Colbath) Nutter of Barnstead New Hampshire, was the first settler to die in that town, age the age of nineteen. She desired that her body be buried beneath a favorite birch tree on the farm. The trunk of the tree was still standing in — on the Nutter family homestead. [from Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire by Chicago Lewis publishing Company; 1908, page 1836].
— Early New Hampshire manufacturers used White birch to create spool bars, and wood novelties–clothespins, kitchen ware, boxes for druggist and confectioner use, shoe pegs, toys, etc.
In 1947 the birch tree became New Hampshire’s official state tree.
Today although the lovely birch trees seem synonymous with New Hampshire, but indeed they are actually more plentiful in an unlikely location. In Alaska, where birch trees are plentiful and maples are rare, a sweet product called “Alaskan Birch Syrup” is made.
“I hear the sylvan voices break
Far in the deeps of birch and pine,
Where summer’s winged songsters wake
To thrill again with notes divine.”
[Stephen Thayer, Poem: “On the Banks of the Sowhegan” from The Poets of New Hampshire by Bela Chapin, 1883]
–New Hampshire State Tree: NH Official State Web Site-
-About: New Hampshire State Tree–