What Is the State Tree of New Hampshire?

Rebecca Mecomber

According to New Hampshire law, adopted 22 May 1947, the state tree of New Hampshire is the Betula papyrifera, commonly known as the white birch. The tree is also called the paper birch and canoe birch tree, since it was used as a form of early paper and for canoes by Native Americans. This deciduous tree is native to New Hampshire in North America. It features distinctive, papery bark that curls and peels with age. Glossy, heart-shaped leaves provide an airy canopy and dappled shade that permit grass and other plants to grow at the tree's base.

Moose rely on the white birch for food.
Moose rely on the white birch for food.

The illustrious state tree of New Hampshire reaches a height of 50 to 80 feet (15.24 to 24.38 m) at maturity. The trunks may grow as individual stalks, but horticulturalists often grow several of the seedlings into intertwined clumps, giving the appearance of a low-lying shrub as the trees age. As a young sapling, the white birch's bark is a dull brown, but develops into a creamy chalk-colored white with dusky gray striations. In the spring, the tree produces fuzzy little catkins that develop husky-shelled seeds for reproduction.

White birches have distinctive, light-colored bark.
White birches have distinctive, light-colored bark.

Senator J. Guy Smart and Mrs. Helen Funkhauser requested that the state legislature designate the white birch as the state tree of New Hampshire, and Governor Charles Dale signed the law. The tree was chosen for its predominance in New Hampshire scenery, nicknamed "Queen of the Woods" by the state-issued periodical New Hampshire Troubadour. In the spring and summer, the tree's distinctive white bark peppers the dense forest lands of the region. This tree changes colors in fall, producing a vivid autumnal display that attracts leaf-peeping tourists from all around the world.

Another one of New Hampshire's state symbols, the state animal, enjoys feeding on the widely available state tree of New Hampshire. The white-tailed deer often feeds on the white birches tender leaves and bark; moose also rely on the tree as an important food source during New Hampshire's harsh winters. While admired, the white birch tree was not the official state tree of New Hampshire for 160 years. The pine tree was the tree first featured on New Hampshire's state seal. The birch tree is not lauded in any of New Hampshire's official and honorary state songs, despite high praises for the state's rich forest land and colorful autumn vistas.

While radically reduced after decades of logging, woodlands fill nearly 5,000,000 acres of New Hampshire land, roughly 84 percent of the state. New Hampshire follows only the state of Maine as the state with the most forest land in the United States. The white birch constitutes one of the 12 most common trees in the state.

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