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Betula nigra

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Common Name: River Birch, Red Birch

Full sun to light shade; moderately wet to medium moisture level; adaptable to most soils including fine heavy clay; slightly acid to moderately acid pH.

40-70 feet height by 40-60 feet spread; flowers are yellow-brown catkins 2-3 inches long in April; fruit is a small winged nutlet in a 1 – 1 1/2” long strobile (cone-like structure) in summer.

Growth Rate: Medium to fast

Maintenance: Low maintenance. Infrequent disease and insect problems.   Avoid pruning in late winter and spring to avoid excessive bleeding of sap. Fall, just after leaf drop, is best time to prune. Can cut to the ground every 20 years to help keep the bark colorful and the tree a manageable size. It will re-sprout very quickly.

Propagation: Moderately easy from seed and difficult from cuttings

Native Region: Statewide except absent in the Central Basin

The most adaptable birch for the southern landscape as it has great heat tolerance. Probably the most trouble-free of diseases and insects of the birches. It is not susceptible to the borers and birch leaf miners that often attack other birch species. Very handsome specimen tree and is popular for landscaping. Bark is reddish brown to pinkish tan and exfoliates in long papery strips. Typically found in the wild along river banks, floodplains and other areas often subject to periodic flooding. Best adapted to moist soils where it reaches its best development and is not drought tolerant. Many cultivars are available, with ‘Heritage’ being one of the most successful.

Attracts butterflies, birds and small mammals. Very important host plant to wide variety of moths and butterflies including the Cecropia moth and the White Admiral, Viceroy, and Mourning Cloak butterflies. Seeds attract birds, and branches provide good nesting sites.

River Birch, Red Birch - Betula nigra 3
Photo Courtesy of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center http://www.wildflower.org/
River Birch, Red Birch - Betula nigra 2
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia http://www.wikipedia.org
River Birch, Red Birch - Betula nigra
Photo Courtesy of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center http://www.wildflower.org/