Water Birch

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 Betula nigra subsp. var.  Water Birch, River Birch
River birch with male catkins
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
Height: 40 ft to 80 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.
Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun
Water: wet, moist
Features: deciduous, fall color
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 3 to 9.5
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Betulaceae > Betula nigra var. , L.

Water Birch, Red Birch or, River Birch (Betula nigra) is a common small birch native in flood plains or swamps in the eastern United States from New Hampshire west to southern Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and east Texas.

It is a small deciduous tree growing to about 25 m tall at most. The bark is very variable, usually dark gray-brown to pinkish-brown and thickly scaly, but in some individuals, smooth and creamy pinkish-white, exfoliating in curly papery sheets. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 5-12 cm long and 4-9 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3-6 cm long, the male catkins pendulous, the female catkins erect. The fruit is unusual among birches in maturing in late spring; it is composed of numerous tiny winged seeds packed between the catkin bracts.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Betula nigra, Linn. (B. rubra. Michx.). Red or River Birch. Tree 50-90 ft.: bark reddish brown, or silvery gray on younger branches, separating into numerous thin, papery flakes: branchlets pubescent: petioles scarcely ½in. long: Lvs. rhombic-ovate, acute, doubly serrate, pubescent when young, at length only on the veins beneath, pale or glaucescent beneath, 2-3½ in. long: cones 1-1 ⅔ in. long, cylindrical, ripening in May or June; scales pubes cent, with erect, linear-oblong, nearly equal lobes. From Mass, south to Fla. and west to Kan. and Minn.— A moisture-loving, graceful tree, with slender, very numerous branches, and remarkable for its torn and ragged bark.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


While its native habitat is wet ground, it will grow on higher land, and its bark is quite distinctive, making it a favored ornamental tree for landscape use. A number of cultivars with much whiter bark than the normal wild type have been selected for garden planting, including 'Heritage' and 'Dura Heat'; these are notable as the only white-barked birches resistant to the bronze birch borer Agrilus anxius in warm areas of the southeastern United States of America.


Pests and diseases




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