Betula nigra – River Birch

Betula nigra
COMMON NAME: River Birch, Red Birch
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Betula nigra (nigra is Latin for black)
FLOWER: Male catkins are yellow and up to 3 inches long. The female flowers are
SIZE: Medium-sized tree growing to a height of 40-50 feet or more. The branches
spread 40 to 60 feet. Often sold with 3 or more trunks.
BEHAVIOR: Medium to rapid growth rate. Tends to resist insect attacks better than
paper birches.
SITE REQUIREMENTS: Native to floodplain soils with a high water table. Grows on
pure sand along the Wisconsin River, but water is not far below. Not tolerant of
shade. Adapts wells to home landscapes, but will not tolerate alkaline soils
(develops iron chlorosis – yellowed leaves).
NATURAL RANGE: Southwestern Wisconsin to southern New England. South to
Florida and eastern Texas.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Long yellow catkins are attractive in early spring, but the
outstanding feature of this plant is its heavily peeling, papery bark with shades of
reddish and pink year-round on young and middle-aged trees. Older trees have
dark bark. Fall color is yellow, but not very showy. The shape and bark add interest
to a winter landscape.
SUGGESTED CARE: Water well during the first few year