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River Birch Betula nigra

Other plants called River Birch:

Description

The Betula nigra tree is a deciduous tree that may grow 30' to 50' tall; branches spreading to pendulous. 
The leaves are alternate with doubly toothed margins.  The bark of young trees is reddish brown with a papery appearance.  Light green, 2" to 3" slim, cylindrical flowers mature in mid-spring.  The tree produces a cone-like aggregate which contains 3 tiny seeds.  The River Birch has graceful branches, is easy to transplant, is heat tolerant and moderately salt tolerant. This tree may drop some leaves during dry weather.  The River Birch has cinnamon brown, exfoliating bark. It does best in moist, wet soil. It shows stress during hot months in well-drained soils. This species has been known to tolerate flooded conditions for extended periods of time.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Seasons of Interest: 

     Bloom:  Spring    Bark: Winter

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: River birch prefers wet sites so if you have a well-drained yard you will have yellow leaves falling during summer droughts and dry periods.  Pruning should not be done in the spring due to sap "bleeds".

Quick ID Hints:

  • bark peels away year round
  • doubly serrate, rhombic-deltoid leaves
  • inverted pins

Good bark character, peels away year round; inner bark variable in hue from light to dark; papery layers remained attached. Use as a specimen tree, shade tree, or planted in clusters; will shed interior leaves in drought. Best adaptable to moist soils, tolerant of wet soils; prefers pH below 6.5; prune in summer, bleeder in spring or fall;; borers main pest

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Duraheat'
  • 'Heritage'
  • 'Little King Fox Valley'
    dwarf
  • 'Shiloh Splash'
    variegated foliage
  • 'Summer Cascade'
    weeping
Tags:
#butterflies#fall color#songbirds#drought tolerant#interesting bark#wildlife plant#winter interest#playground#small mammals#cpp#low flammability#buffer#children's garden#fire resistant#woodland#naturalizes#edible seeds#shimmer#screening#Braham Arboretum#fantz
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Duraheat'
  • 'Heritage'
  • 'Little King Fox Valley'
    dwarf
  • 'Shiloh Splash'
    variegated foliage
  • 'Summer Cascade'
    weeping
Tags:
#butterflies#fall color#songbirds#drought tolerant#interesting bark#wildlife plant#winter interest#playground#small mammals#cpp#low flammability#buffer#children's garden#fire resistant#woodland#naturalizes#edible seeds#shimmer#screening#Braham Arboretum#fantz
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Betula
    Species:
    nigra
    Family:
    Betulaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Fuel, inexpensive furniture, basket hoops, artificial limbs, and toys are made from the wood.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Distribution:
    VT south to FL west to TX north through OK, NE, MI, IO, and MN
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Host plant for Mourning Cloak and Dreamy Duskywing butterflies. Young twigs, buds, and foliage browsed by white-tailed deer. Seeds consumed by grouse, turkey, small birds and rodents. Birds and squirrels eat the male catkins in late winter/early spring.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Edible fruit
    Pieces Used in Games
    Screening
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Wind Shimmer
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 40 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil Drainage:
    Frequent Standing Water
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Description:
    Small nutlet, about 400,000 seeds per pound, seed is shed in the spring.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The River Birch has light green, 2" to 3" slim, cylindrical flowers and fruiting staminate catkins 2-3" long.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaf of the River Birch is 2- 3.5". It is an alternate, simple leaf with modest yellow fall color. 0.75-2.5" wide, rhombic-deltoid, sharp acute, broad cuneate to nearly truncate, doubly serrate, glaucous with 7-9 veins underneath.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Orange
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Papery
    Ridges
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Smooth on young trees salmon to rust colored developing papery scales. As the tree ages, bark divides into flat, scaly ridges.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Diseases
    Drought
    Fire
    Wet Soil
    Wind