Species At Risk

Cherry Birch

(Betula lenta)
Provincial Status: Endangered
Cherry Birch
Cherry Birch occurrences map


The Cherry Birch is a medium-sized deciduous tree that grows up to 20 metres tall. The leaves are oval-shaped with a finely toothed edge and a slender tip. It is named for its bark, which resembles that of the domestic Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium), a tree that is known to escape from cultivation in southern Ontario. Unlike other birch trees, this species has smooth bark that is broken into scales without curly or peeling edges. The scales are prominently marked with small lens-shaped blister-like breaks (lenticels). The twigs smell like fresh, sweet wintergreen.


The single population of Cherry Birch in Canada is isolated at two sites on the Niagara peninsula in southern Ontario. A survey of the two sites in 2010, found only 17 trees out of the 50 trees that were originally identified in 1967.


In Ontario, the Cherry Birch is found on moist, well-drained clay loam soil over limestone bedrock with White Oak, Red Oak, Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maple and other deciduous trees.


Historically, the main threat to Cherry Birch has been habitat destruction. Development and forest clearing in southern Ontario has caused a decline in suitable habitat for this species. The remaining population is surrounded by residential development. Moreover, it is exposed to the effects of intense erosion along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. All mature trees in the population were lost to erosion after severe storms in 2004 and 2005.


Cherry Birch is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

For more information on legislation that helps protect Ontario's species at risk visit ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.

What You Can Do to Help the Cherry Birch

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Cherry Birch. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find Cherry Birch on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats. For more information, visit: ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Early settlers used wintergreen oil from Cherry Birch twigs to treat muscle pain. Aboriginal people have used Cherry Birch bark to make buildings, canoes, storage containers, and for many medicinal applications.

Did you know?

When Cherry Birch wood is exposed to air it darkens to a colour resembling mahogany and was once used as an inexpensive substitute for this valuable tropical wood.

Did you know?

Cherry Birch was formerly the main commercial source of wintergreen oil (methyl salicylate), which is distilled from its wood.

Did you know?

Many flowers contain both female and male reproductive parts, like lilies and roses. However, the Cherry Birch, along with the rest of the birch family, has separate male and female flowers on the same tree. This type of flower arrangement is called “monoecious”.

Did you know?

Even if there are no other members of its species in the area, the Cherry Birch can still produce fruit. It is able to self-fertilize, which means that female flowers can be pollinated by male flowers on the same tree.

Did you know?

A Cherry Birch tree can live for 265 years or longer.