Betula utilis is a birch tree native to the Western Himalayas, growing at elevations up to 4,500 m. The white, paper-like bark of the tree was used in ancient times for writing Sanskrit scriptures and texts.
Betula utilis is still used as paper for the writing of sacred mantras, with the bark placed in an amulet and worn for protection. Selected varieties are used for landscaping throughout the world, even while some areas of its native habitat are being lost due to overuse of the tree for firewood. In its native habitat, the tree tends to form forests, growing as a shrub or tree reaching up to 20 m (66 ft) tall. It frequently grows among scattered conifers, with an undergrowth of shrubs that typically includes evergreen Rhododendron. Leaves are ovate, 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) long, with serrated margins, and slightly hairy. Flowering occurs from May-July.