River Birch

birch tree growing in front of a house.

River Birch Deciduous

Betula Nigra

Most birch species do not grow well in Nebraska, preferring more northerly locations where summers are cool and moisture is more consistent. River birch, however, is the most heat-tolerant of birches and can grow quickly when well-sited in eastern Nebraska. 

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Where To Grow

It grows best along rivers and streams in its native habitat, but it does well as a landscape tree or as a visual barrier planted in a row. It is sometimes a difficult tree to get established and it is not uncommon for the tree to struggle for a couple of years before it begins to put on more growth. It is best to plant smaller nursery stock.

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Suitable to plant in the eastern half of Nebraska.
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Size at Maturity


Tree Height Tree Spread
35-50' 35-50'
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Tree Characteristics

River birch is a deciduous medium to large-sized native tree. The leaves are alternate, double serrated, wedge-shaped, and sharply pointed. The flowers are unisexual, borne in separate male and female catkins on the same tree. The bark is light brown to buff, paperlike; exfoliating on young trees, turning to scaly bark on older trees.

Positive attributes include its peeling, cinnamon-brown bark; its graceful, pendulous habit; its tolerance of lawn irrigation, and its yellow fall color. 

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Wildlife Benefits

Its young twigs, buds, and foliage are browsed by white-tailed deer; seeds are eaten by grouse, turkeys, small birds, and rodents. Its spring ripening make it particularly valuable. Goldfinch enjoys the mature seed in the fall.

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Additional Considerations

River birch is useful in native-oriented landscapes. It has a balanced and well-formed growth habit and interesting features through all seasons.

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Interesting Facts

  • As a member of the Birch Family, it is related to the Alders, Hornbeams, Filberts, and Hophornbeams, in addition to other Birches. 
  • River birch bears an average of 375,000 seeds per pound.