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.