River Birch (Betula nigra)

River Birch (Betula nigra)

As its name suggests, this birch tree species (Betula nigra) thrives near waters, floodplains, and swamps. Unlike some of its cousins, it can withstand heat and can be found as far south as Texas and Florida.

An Elegant Tree

The river birch is a fast-growing tree (about 14’’-24’’ per year) that can reach up to 100 feet. It is characterized by the thin, pink-gray bark which peels off in curled scales. The bark turns to a cinnamon color, darker shade when the tree matures.

It’s common to find river birch trees that have multiple slender trunks instead of only one trunk. Its canopy grows in an oval shape, making it an elegant presence near rivers and ponds, but also in cities and gardens.

The leaves are oval and simple, with teeth along the edges. It sheds during Autumn after showing off lovely colors of yellow and orange in its canopy.

The Perfect Tree for Urban Ares

The adaptiveness of the river birch tree makes it an ideal tree for urban landscaping and residential gardening. It is resistant to drought and mild floods and it likes the vicinity of water.

If you want to plant a river birch sapling, give it plenty of sun, but allow some partial shade to protect it. At least four hours of full sun a day will make it happy.

River birch trees prefer acidic, loamy, moist, well-drained clay soils. It will thrive in North Carolina and other states where it’s a native species, but it has also been introduced to other states successfully.

River birch trees have high wildlife value. They are also used by humans in many ways, from controlling river bank erosion to extracting essential oils with medicinal uses.


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