The first thing you have to do with paper birch is to identify that it is indeed a paper birch and not a river birch.  These two trees are often mistaken for each other.  They have completely different diseases and insects that attack them so it is key to know that paper birch has white bark.  It often grows in several different sections like its relative the river birch.  They are native to completely different solid so you will find that one tree gets a set of diseases and another get completely different diseases and some of the diseases affect the whole species of birch trees.
The most known insect that kills paper birch is the bronze birch borer.  It looks identical to the emerald ash borer except it is bronze and it kills paper birch trees.  It does not affect river birch. Weird huh?? Along with the bronze birch borer there are several other insects that harm paper birches. Just to name a few there are tent caterpillar (shown to right), leaf skeleton, sawflies, birch leafminer, gypsy moth and many more.  Physical deformities such as the canker shown to the right can cause major problems in paper birch trees.
Several different fungus affect paper birch. Most of these diseases are undetectable because they are in the root system of the tree.  Cases of fungus have defoliation on the crown of the tree. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Die back in sections
  • Tents similar to the ones on the right of the page
  • Leaf loss or holes in leaves
  • D-Shaped entry wounds
  • Larvae or insects are present in tree
Betulaceae family
Emerald Ash Borer, dutch elm disease, maple wilt, disease control, tree treatments
Common Name: Ironwood

Scientific name: Carpinus coroliniana
Leaves: Alternate arrangement, 2-4" long, ovate and double serrate
Bark: Dull gray tones, furrowed near the base, vertical veins in bark, corrugated
Height: 30-40' max. 
Spread: 20-30'
General info: Ironwood are often found in wooded areas along with oaks.  They are slow growing and a shorter shade tree.  Another common name for this tree is a hornbeam.  Though it may seem odd that this tree is a part of the birch family it shares many characteristics including leaf structure, shape, and seeds.

Pests and diseases: Two-lined chestnut borer has made many of these weaker trees a host.  Since most are under larger oak trees they are rarely treated.
Common Name: Paper Birch

Scientific name: Betula papyrifera
Leaves: Alternate, ovate, 1-5" long, 2-4" broad, double serrated
Bark: Smooth white, flaking horizontally, small black marks and scars
Height: 60'-130' tall at max
Spread: Variable
General info: Often a multi-trunk tree with very good elasticity.  This water loving tree is commonly found in Canada.  Cold weather loving tree turns a beautiful yellow shade in the fall.  Often sought after for decorative purpose or for its light colored wood in flooring, furniture and other wood working projects.

Pests and diseases: Bronze birch borer is the main pest of this tree.  Other common problems include Japanese beetles, chlorosis, and aphids.
Common Name: River Birch

Scientific name: Betula nigra
Leaves: Alternate arrangement, 1-3" long, 1-2.5" broad, ovate and double serrate
Bark: Variable, dark gray brown to pinkish brown. Exfoliates in curly paper sheets
Height: 80-100' max. 
Spread: Variable
General info: River birch or water birch are often found along rivers extending as far north as Southern Minnesota.  This water loving tree is used to low ph conditions.  Often multi-trunked and planted near homes in residential landscapes.

Pests and diseases: Iron chlorosis is often the worst issue when planted.  Other issues include Japanese beetles and aphids.
Common Name: Yellow Birch

Scientific name: Betula alleghaniensis
Leaves: Alternate arrangement, 2-5.5" long, 1.5-4" broad, ovate and double serrate
Bark: Golden trunk color, smooth in texture, flaking in fine horizontal stripes
Height: 50' max. 
Spread: 20-30'
General info: This tree can commonly be found in the north-eastern United States extending as far west as Minnesota.  They are water loving like most other birch trees and lower PH soil is optimal.

Pests and diseases: Bronze birch borer are a major pest of this tree.