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
Image
Common names
  • River Birch

Photo Gallery
Location: Willow Valley Communities, Lakes Campus, Willow Street, Pennsylvania
Date: 2019-12-17
Location: Benedict Hosta Hillside, Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, Michigan
Date: 2020-10-28
Leaves primarily from an over-hanging river birch, fallen into a
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake
Date: January 7, 2022
River birch #85; RAB page 36, 54-3-5. AG page 471, 103-1-? LHB pa
Location: Western Kentucky
Date: October 2009
River Birch Bark
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Date: 2022-04-07
Location: My house in Portsmouth.
Date: 2012-06-22
Location: My garden in N E Pa. 
Date: 2016-05-25
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2015-04-26
catkins
Location: Nationale Plantentuin Meise (Botanical Garden near Brussels)
Photo by Deby
Location: Aberdeen, NC
Date: May 10,  2022
River birch #85; RAB page 36, 54-3-5. AG page 471, 103-1-? LHB pa
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2022-05-07
lots of fallen catkins on the wet driveway
Location: Nationale Plantentuin Meise (Botanical Garden near Brussels)
Date: 2023-01-17
Location: Abandoned quarry in western Illinois
Date: 2014-07-29
Location: Nationale Plantentuin Meise (Botanical Garden near Brussels)
Date: 2023-01-17
Location: Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis
Date: 2016-06-18
Location: My yard.
Date: 2012-03-19
Location: Portsmouth.
Date: 2012-03-19
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2010-07-02
mature planted tree in a yard
Location: Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL
Date: 2010-06-23
an old tree and trunk with old bark
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: June 2010
birch stobiles with seed
Location: Daniel Boone National Forest Ky
Date: 2015-10-29
fern colonizing the bark of wild native river birch
Location: Tennessee
Date: 2003-07-09
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/
Location: My brother's garden, Belgium
Date: 2015-08-18
Photo by virginiarose
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake
Date: January 7, 2022
River birch #85; RAB page 36, 54-3-5. AG page 471, 103-1-? LHB pa
Location: Wheaton, Illinois
Date: 2018-08-26
dying from iron chlorosis yellowing
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2022-06-01
lots of seed fallen on street; there was a lot on the sidewalk be
Location: Western Kentucky
Date: June 2009
River Birch
Location: Aurora, Illinois
Date: summer in 1980's
mature trunks
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2008-04-24
catkins (birch flowers) in spring
Location: Clinton, Michigan 49236
Date: 2017-10-31
"Betula Nigra, 2015, River Birch, BET-you-luh NYE-gruh, 60x50' Tr
Location: Clinton, Michigan 49236
Date: 2017-10-31
"Betula Nigra, 2015, River Birch, BET-you-luh NYE-gruh, 60x50' Tr

Date: c. 1865
illustration by H. J. Redouté from Michaux's 'The North American
Location: East Tennessee  
Date: 2014-05-28
Location: Northeastern Indiana
Date: 2011-10-02
Location: Western Kentucky
Date: 2012-10-16
Changing to fall color
Location: My brother's garden, Belgium
Date: 2015-08-18
Location: My brother's garden, Belgium
Date: 2015-08-18
Location: RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire, UK
Date: 2021-04-10
Location: RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire, UK
Date: 2021-04-10
Location: My house in Portsmouth.
Date: 2013-04-12
Catkins
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake
Date: January 7, 2022
River birch #85; RAB page 36, 54-3-5. AG page 471, 103-1-? LHB pa
Location: Cedarhome, Washington
Date: 2017-07-14

photo credit: Kurt Stüber
Location: RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire UK
Date: 2022-04-30
Location: Jacksonville, TX
Date: 2012-03-16
Location: office park in Lisle, Illinois
Date: summer in 1990's
mature tree planted in a landscape
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2015-07-23
mature planted tree in a landscape
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2011-01-31
mature tree in winter in a landscape
Location: Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2011-01-31
mature trunk with bark
Location: Clinton, Michigan 49236
Date: 2017-10-31
"Betula Nigra Abedul, 2015, River Birch, BET-you-luh NYE-gruh, 60
Location: Morton Arboretum
credit: Bruce Marlin

Date: 2003-07-09
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Date: 2004-05-11
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Date: 2004-05-11
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Date: 2004-04-02
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

Date: 2004-04-02
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/
Location: Eastern Tennessee
Date: 2014-05-27
This plant is tagged in:
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Comments:
  • Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Nov 22, 2017 12:57 PM concerning plant:
    The River or Red Birch is very commonly planted in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and much of the South 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 in swamps, bottomlands, and along watercourses. 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 in the Chicago, Il area 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 catkins in mid-Spring, and lots of seed in late spring to early summer; and that seed produces lots of seedlings around the yard. 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 reddish-brown to almost black; thus given the name of B. nigra, referring to black in Latin. 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 on the lower trunks for 15 to 20 years as 'Heritage' and 'Dura Heat.'
  • Posted by Sharon (Calvert City, KY - Zone 7a) on Jan 9, 2012 1:09 AM concerning plant:
    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.
  • Posted by virginiarose (Virginia - Zone 8a) on Dec 9, 2012 8:29 PM concerning plant:
    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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