Ruth insists that we’re obligated to have photographs with plants and snow in the winter, so here’s a photograph and write-up from her:
I took this picture on a snowshoeing adventure with some friends in February 2008. The paper birch squeezing through gaps in the granite boulders is the subject species of today’s write up, though recognition should also be made to the fern and moss growing amongst this outcrop. Life finds a way.
White-barked birch trees are the light-colored relief to the dense evergreen forests of the east. In Bob Ross’ landscape paintings, he would slice through the black and green of the riverside forest with his pallet knife covered in white paint — the birch trees. Birch trees are deciduous, with vibrant yellow leaves in the autumn.
Birch trees are important culturally. First Nations used the paper birch in the area named by European colonizers as New England for millenia: Betula papyrifera was used for construction of canoes and wigwams, as well as cooking vessels, jewelry and art.
Although the paper birch occurs in many states in northern and central USA and is native to every province in Canada, in the USA it is only native to the northeastern US, parts of the Midwest, Alaska, and the northern parts of Washington, Idaho and Montana. In Canada it has a much larger native range.
Natural history resource link (added by Daniel): the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle of Paris, France — plenty of links to explore.