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Betula nigra

Common Name(s):
River birch
Duraheat, Little King Fox Valley (dwarf), Heritage, Summer Cascade (weeping), Shiloh Splash (variegated foliage)
Native Plants, Trees

The Betula nigra tree is a deciduous tree that may grow 60 to 80 feet tall.  The leaves are alternate with doubly toothed margins.  The bark of young trees is reddish brown with a papery appearance.  As the tree ages, the bark divides into flat, scaly ridges with black furrows.  Light green, 2 to 3 inch 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.   

Regions:  Peidmont, Coastal Plain

Seasons of Interest: 

     Bloom:  Spring    Bark: Winter

Wildlife Value: The River birch is a host plant for Mourning Cloak and Dreamy Duskywing butterflies.  Many moths also use as a host plant.  The seeds are eaten by birds.  Birds and squirrels eat the male catkins in late winter/early springtime. This tree is resistant to damage by deer. Wind screen.

Play Value: Wind screen, buffers and attracts wildlife.

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".

40-70 ft.
The River Birch has light green, 2" to 3" slim, cylindrical flowers and fruiting catkins.
The River Birch prefers a sunny to partially shaded setting. 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.
Fine to medium
Pyramidal when young; upright; open; thin twigs
Full sun to partial shade
40-60 ft.
Growth Rate:
Moderate to rapid
The leaf of the River Birch is 2- to 3.5-inches. It is an alternate, simple leaf with modest yellow fall color.
riparian, play, playground, seeds, host, squirrels, deer resistant, salt tolerant, deciduous, birds, butterflies, shade tree, facultative-wetland, moths, tsc, rain garden, bark, wet, wet soil, winter interest, children’s garden, wet site, highly beneficial coastal plants

NCCES plant id: 1921

Betula nigra Betula nigra in the city
Chris Kreussling, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Betula nigra 'Heritage' Foliage detail
Maggie and her camera, CC BY-NC-2.0