River Birch (Betula nigra)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Tree
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Water Preferences: Wet
Wet Mesic
Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Strongly acid (5.1 – 5.5)
Moderately acid (5.6 – 6.0)
Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 4a -34.4 °C (-30 °F) to -31.7 °C (-25 °F)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 9b
Plant Height: 40-70 feet
Plant Spread: 30-60 feet
Leaves: Unusual foliage color
Deciduous
Other: The medium-to-dark green leaves are white on the back. They are 1-3" long and are shaped like an oval with serrated edges.
Fruit: Other: After pollination, clusters of winged fruit that are small and brown form in the spring.
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Spring
Uses: Provides winter interest
Erosion control
Shade Tree
Dynamic Accumulator: P (Phosphorus)
Wildlife Attractant: Birds
Other Beneficial Insects
Resistances: Flood Resistant
Salt tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Sow in situ
Seeds are hydrophilic
Other info: Seed ripens and sheds in the spring and should be directly sown.
Pollinators: Wind
Miscellaneous: Monoecious
Awards and Recognitions: Other: 2008 Great Plant Picks Award Winner
Conservation status: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation status:
Conservation status: Least Concern
River Birch Bark

Garden Tours:  ChelleGarden Tours: Chelle
April 8, 2012

This is a Garden Tour you'll long remember. Chelle has done marvelous things with her 10 acres in Indiana and she will show us both the before and after photos. We think you are going to love this tour! (Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge so you'll get the full picture!)

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Comments:
Posted by Sharon (Calvert City, KY - Zone 7a) on Jan 9, 2012 1:09 AM

I've had this tree for about 30 years, I grew it from a seedling. It's one of my favorite trees, mostly because of it unusual and attractive bark. While its native habitat is wet ground, it will grow on higher land, and its bark is quite distinctive, making it a favored ornamental tree for landscape use. It is not planted in wet ground here in my yard, in fact there have been a few summers when we were in drought conditions, but it is a survivor and no worse for the wear. It isn't a very large tree, compared to an oak or a maple, but it is a good shade tree for smaller yards.

The bark peels as the tree grows and occasionally I use those pieces that come off the tree in table centerpieces or various other craft projects.

Native Americans used the boiled sap as a sweetener similar to maple syrup, and the inner bark as a survival food. It is usually too contorted and knotty to be of value as a timber tree.

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Posted by virginiarose (Virginia) on Dec 9, 2012 8:29 PM

Do not prune the river birch between May 1st and August 1st, as this is the time period when the bronze birch borers are out in full force.

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Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Nov 22, 2017 12:57 PM

The River or Red Birch is very commonly planted in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast of the US, available at most any nursery. I have seen them wild in swampy places and bottomlands of Maryland and southern Illinois and along creeks in southern Wisconsin. Its native range is from Massachusetts down to northern Florida to east Texas up to southern Minnesota. It is fast growing of about 2 feet/year and lives about 100 to 125 years. It likes draining wet to moist soil, though it can tolerate some good drought, and it needs the soil to be at least a little bit acid. My southeast PA neighborhood has some happy River Birches in pH of about 6.7 to 6.9 as do some northern Illinois neighborhoods. However, I have seen some develop yellow foliage and die out from iron chlorosis because the pH was somewhere above pH 7.0. Overall, it is a good quality, pretty tree, but it does drop lots of twigs in late summer, fall, winter, and early spring, and it does drop a lot of seed in late spring to early summer. Young bark is papery and exfoliating with color of cream, orange-brown and pinkish; then lots of gray and brown scaly bark takes over as the major bark; and then when real old bark becomes blocky red-brown to very dark. Because it tolerates summer heat well, it is not bothered by the Bronze Birch Borer, unless very old. There are a few cultivars that keep the young creamy bark for a very long time as 'Heritage' and 'Dura Heat.'

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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Oh Wow! by wcgypsy Jun 28, 2012 10:24 PM 3
Garden design (paint sketch) by Arico Nov 27, 2016 3:13 PM 5
Need help identifying a sapling by GardenGoober Apr 16, 2016 1:54 AM 8
What kind of tree is this? by jakepetes Aug 19, 2015 12:02 PM 2
Tree by Anderwood Feb 9, 2015 3:29 PM 25
What's blooming in 2013? by virginiarose Dec 18, 2015 8:26 PM 1,768
Salt tolerant plants by eclayne Feb 8, 2013 9:39 PM 130

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