Species Profile

Cherry Birch

Scientific Name: Betula lenta
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2006
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Cherry Birch


Cherry Birch is a medium-sized tree that can reach up to 25 m in height.  The leaves are entire with toothed edges and are arranged alternately on the stem. The bark is smooth and dark and, with age, breaks up into large plates, which lack the curling at the edges that distinguishes this species from other birches. The small male and female flowers are borne on separate catkins, but on the same tree. The catkins and twigs lack hairs.


Distribution and Population

Cherry Birch is found primarily in the eastern United States, with one population in an adjacent region of Ontario. It occurs from southern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania, to eastern Ohio and down through the Appalachian Mountains to northern Alabama and Georgia.   There is currently only one population of Cherry Birch in Canada, in the Niagara region of Ontario, 50 to 70 km from the nearest populations in western New York. It occurs west of St. Catharines, near Lake Ontario, at the mouth of 15 Mile and 16 Mile creeks.   The Canadian population has declined 72% since it was first recorded in 1967. In 2005, only 14 trees out of the 50 trees present in 1967 remained.



Cherry Birch typically occupies moist, well-drained soils, but it is also found on coarse-textured or rocky shallow soils. In Ontario, it occurs with Eastern Hemlock and various upland hardwoods, such as Red Oak, White Oak and Sugar Maple.



Cherry Birch can reach an age of 200 years or more.  Each tree produces both male and female flowers, borne on separate catkins.  Isolated individuals are able to produce fruit. Flowering occurs in the spring, before the leaves appear. The pollen and seeds, which have small wings, are dispersed by wind. The seeds develop through the summer and are released in late fall or winter.  They require light to germinate.



Land clearing and housing development have directly impacted the habitat of the Canadian population, which has been in decline since 1967.  Residential development has occurred all around the presently occupied habitat, and only the steep slopes of 15 Mile Creek and associated ravines remain in natural forest cover.   Clearing has also indirectly impacted its remaining habitat, making it more prone to wind damage from storms that regularly blow in off Lake Ontario. With the decline in forest cover, violent storms have a greater impact on the remaining vegetation.



Federal Protection

The Cherry Birch is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Cherry Birch Betula lenta in Canada (2006)

    Cherry birch (Betula lenta) is a tree in the birch family (Betulaceae). It has alternate leaves that are simple and toothed. It is distinguished from the other birches by its dark bark breaking into large plates lacking curled edges. Twigs and catkins lack hairs. Flowers are small and clustered into separate male and female catkins on the same tree.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Cherry Birch (2006)

    A widespread deciduous tree of eastern North America that is known from a single small population in Ontario. This population has declined considerably over the past four decades with fewer than 15 trees remaining in the wild. Its habitat is surrounded by residential development and the population is at continued risk from storms, erosion and habitat loss and degradation.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Cherry Birch (Betula lenta) in Canada (2016)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the Cherry Birch and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of Ontario led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the Cherry Birch (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment Canada. The province of Ontario also led the development of the attached Governement Response Statement (Part 3), which is the Ontario Government’s policy response to its provincial recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario government intends to take and support.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2007)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017