Betula nigra (River Birch, Black Birch)

Commonly planted for its peculiar bark, Betula nigra is the most heat resistant of the Birch genus. The River Birch is highly resilient of clay, wet, and dry soils with poor drainage. The bark, like other birches, peels to reveal a salmon-colored trunk with stripping orange and brown outer bark layers.
Betula nigra (River Birch, Red Birch, Black Birch, Water Birch)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Height: 12-21 meters (40-70 feet) tall
Diameter: 12-18 meter (40-60 foot) spread
Growth Rate: fast
Age: 80-100 years
Root System: shallow
Family: Betulaceae
Subspecies: ‘Heritage’ (produces usualy just one singular trunk), ‘Curly’

Tolerates: drought, heat (relative to other birches), dry soils, wet soils, poor drainage, clay soils, poor air quality (pollution), deer
Problems (major): Intolerant of low shade.
Problems (minor): aphids, leaf miners, and iron chlorosis (in very alkaline soils), consistent flooding, competition, bronze birch borer (typically a big problem, although this is the most resistant of the birches)
Poisonous: non-toxic

Soil requirements: Does best in moist, acidic, semi-aquatic, slightly acidic, and fertile soils. Tolerates dry and heavy soils.
Air Requirements: tolerant of poor urban conditions, dislikes very warm summers zone 5 and up
Watering requirement: moderate to wet
Sun requirement: full sun to part-shade

Needles: none
Cones (male): none
Cones (female): none
Leaves: Leaves grow 2-10 centimeters (1-4 inches) long, heavily toothed.
Flowers: Flowering occurs mostly in April and May. Male catkins are brown and drooping; female catkins are green and more upright.
Fruits: tiny seeds hidden inside autumn catkins
Seeds require stratification: yes
Monoecious or Dioecious: monoecious

Notable characteristics: The bark is salmon-orange-brownish color and peels a great deal. Multiple trunks typically form from one specimen.

Uses: Commonly used as an ornamental tree for it’s interesting bark and resilience to soils and weather conditions.

Sources used:

Image Emerging leaves in spring
Betula_nigra_1  Bark peeling
Betula_nigra_4  Betula_nigra_8 Older bark beginning to peel.
Betula_nigra_11 a wide-spread canopy
Betula_nigra_5 a tall stem with catkins visible
Betula_nigra_6    DSC05121
Catkins and emerging leaves All the provided images were taken by me during 2014. They may be used for informational and/or educational purposes provided that either this article or this blog is properly cited/referenced.


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