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Similar but less problematic plants:
Betula nigra Betula nigra
Betula alleghaniensis is often confused with:
Betula lenta Sweet birch
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Betula lenta Sweet birch
Quercus nigra Form
Tilia americana Tilia americana

Golden Birch Betula alleghaniensis

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Betula lutea
Phonetic Spelling
BET-yoo-luh al-leh-gay-nee-EN-sis
Description

Betula is Latin for birch and describes a genus of about 60 species of deciduous trees and shrubs found in many gardens and landscapes throughout the northern hemisphere. Betula alleghaniensis, or Yellow Birch is a medium to large deciduous tree with a single trunk of up to 3 feet 6 inches and an overall height that can reach 70 to 80 feet tall. It is the largest species of birch in North America. In the open, the crown is large and wide, while in dense forested areas the crown is small and irregular. Pyramidal and dense when young, it develops a rounded to irregular crown when mature. It can be found naturally in forests at medium to high elevations, usually above 3000 feet, and is common to the mountains of North Carolina. Tiny monoecious (male and female) flowers appear in early spring in separate catkins on the same tree. Male catkins are narrowly cylindrical and yellowish purple. The female catkins are upright and greenish. Female flowers are followed by drooping cone-like fruits containing numerous small winged seeds that typically mature in late summer.

Yellow Birches are best grown in moist, acidic, sandy or rocky, well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. Best foliage color occurs in full sun. Unlike most birches, Yellow Birch are slow-growing and typically live for about 150 years; however, the longevity of some trees can extend to 300 years or more. Hot dry weather during the summer can impair the health of this tree and it is especially sensitive to heat, drought, and soil compaction. The plant does best in cool climates. Keep the tree consistently moist and consider using soaker hoses and bark mulches to keep the root zones cool and moist. It needs little pruning, but if necessary, you can prune during the dormant season. Do not prune in winter or spring when the sap is running because it will bleed.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

Birches can become stressed by summer heat and humidity. It is not recommended for planting south of USDA Zone 7. This variety of birch is said to be less susceptible to the bronze birch borer or leaf miner than other birches. Stem canker, aphids and birch skeletonizer may occur. Watch for leaf spot problems. Deer will browse the twigs of young plants.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#fall color#bark#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#fall interest#seeds#squirrels#wet sites#showy bark#owls#food source#NC native#exfoliating#fragrant stems#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source summer#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#food source hard-mast fruit#butterfly friendly#FACU Coastal#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#fall color#bark#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#fall interest#seeds#squirrels#wet sites#showy bark#owls#food source#NC native#exfoliating#fragrant stems#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source summer#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#food source hard-mast fruit#butterfly friendly#FACU Coastal#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Betula
    Species:
    alleghaniensis
    Family:
    Betulaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Heavy, strong, hard, and close grained, the lumber is Important as a source for flooring, furniture, and veneers. Bark is waterproof and used for canoes.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern Canada and Northeastern North America
    Distribution:
    East of Alleghanies Hudson Bay to Georgia
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The Golden birch is a host plant for the Mourning Cloak and Dreamy Duskywing butterflies.  Many moths also use this tree as a host plant.  The seeds are eaten by birds.  Northern flying squirrels and northern saw-whet owls use the hollows that often form in this tree as nest sites.  Squirrels (flying and red) often use the exfoliating bark to line or insulate their nests.
    Edibility:
    Sap can be made into syrup or beer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 70 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 60 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Samara
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    A plump, upright, 1 1/2 inch hairy cone with 2-winged 1/8 inch nutlets inside. Matures in late summer. Attracts birds, butterfly and moth larvae, other insects, and mammals.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Male catkins occur at the tips of last year's twigs in groups of 3-6. During the blooming period, they droop downward and become 2½ to 4 inches long with numerous male florets and their bracts. Male florets occur in groups of 3 behind each bract. Each bract is oval-orbicular in shape and ciliate along its margins. Female catkins occur individually on short spur-twigs near the petioles of leaves; they are upright, ovoid-oblongoid in shape, and greenish, ¾-1¼" inches long, consisting of numerous female florets in groups of 3 behind a bract.The Yellow birch blooms in mid to late April. It is wind pollinated.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate with doubly toothed margins and a pointed tip. Leaf surfaces are a dull dark green, but lighter underneath with a pointed tip and a slightly heart shaped (cordate) base. Yellow leaves in the fall are attractive. Leaves are 2.5 to 4 inches long and 1.25 to 2.5 inches wide.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Description:
    Showy bark on younger trees is shiny bronze with horizontal thin, papery strips and lenticles. Silvery-gold, glossy bark that peels in horizontal curls. Older trees have bark with red-brown, scaly plates.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Description:
    Shiney stems that smell like wintergreen when crushed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil