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BETULA nigra

Image of Betula nigra

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Betulaceae

Botanical Name

BETULA nigra

Plant Common Name

River Birch

General Description

River birch is a handsome, often multi-stemmed, fast growing tree that is native to the central and southeastern United States. Its most notable ornamental feature is its beautiful peeling bark that appears in mixed shades on white, rust-orange, gray and brown. Like other birches, it has elongated catkins, which appear in spring, and its medium-green leaves turn a dirty yellow in the fall. Its seeds ripen in late spring, much earlier than other birch species.

This tree is a wise selection for wet soil sites, hence its name, but can tolerate locations with drier soils. This species is more tolerant of heat than other birches and is resistant to birch borers. One problem with river birch is its tendency to drop many fine branches on the ground, especially after storms. In residential yards, the smaller maturing cultivars make better landscaping options.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    40'-70' / 12.2m - 21.3m

  • Width

    40'-60' / 12.2m - 18.3m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, Central United States, South-Central United States

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site, Pollution, Soil Compaction

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Brown

  • Fruit Color

    Black

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Light Yellow, Tan

  • Bark Color

    White, Copper, Tan, Sandy Brown, Ivory, Slate Gray

  • Bark Color Modifier

    Multi-Color

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No