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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Betula pumila L.)

Swamp Birch

BIRCH FAMILY (Betulaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A deciduous shrub 1 to 4 m. in height. The alternate leaves are simple, coarsely toothed, and ovate. New leaves are pubescent, but lose their hairs as they age. The leaves have 3 to 6 pairs of lateral veins and are 2-3 cm. long. Twigs have woody, cone-like pistillate catkins, supported by a short, 5-10 mm. long peduncle. The pistillate catkins are conspicuous over the winter. Fruit is a small (ca 2 x 3 mm.) winged nutlet.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Swamp birch, also known as bog birch, is a distinctive shrub of bogs, the edges of conifer swamps and occasionally fens. It may form large colonies. Ownbey and Morley (1991) use B. glandulifera (Regel) Butler for this species. The birches readily form hybrids and swamp birch is no exception. The hybrid B. glandulifera x sandbergii is common in our bogs.

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Swink and Wilhelm (1994); and Fassett (1976).

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