River Birch

birch tree growing in front of a house.

River Birch Deciduous

Betula Nigra
Origin:

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.
References