The river birch is commonly seen in swamps and along rivers, but its particular shade of bark color and exfoliating properties lead it to be an excellent ornamental tree. This is made all the more easy by the fact that the river birch is a sturdy, relatively pest- and disease-free tree that thrives in numerous sites.
More detail: River Birch’s Tree of the Month.
Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, rhombic to ovate, doubly serrate, with a wedge-shaped base, green above, paler and fuzzy below
Reddish green male catkins hang near the end of the twig, 2 to 3 inches long; female catkins are upright and light green
Cone-like, with many hairy scales, reddish brown, containing many tiny, 3-winged seeds that ripen and break apart in the fall
Slender, orangish brown in color, smooth or slightly pubescent, with the terminal bud absent
Smooth on young trees, salmon to rust colored. As it matures it develops papery scales that exfoliate horizontally with creamy to orange-brown colors visible; later on in maturity the river birch develops coarse scales
The trunk typically divides low into several upright trunks but the tree has a general oval, pyramidal, upright or erect shape
It can grow to be 40 to 70 feet in height and have a spread of about 40 to 60 feet
Native to the eastern United States from New Hampshire west to southern Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and east Texas
Commonly turns a yellow-golden color in the fall
Grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained, wet, wide range, clay soils
Does well in full sun and partial shade
Paper birch, European weeping birch, gray birch
Pests and Diseases
No serious issues with insects or disease, except for Anthracnose leaf blight, which can harm the leaves
The river birch has become a popular landscape tree because of its distinctive bark and graceful crown.
Because of its tolerance to acidic soils, the river birch has been used successfully in strip mine reclamation.