Betula nigra (River Birch, Red Birch)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Noted for beautiful, exfoliating bark and multiple trunks, River Birch is an
excellent food source for wildlife, supporting hundreds of species of moths,
butterflies, and songbirds. It is commonly found in the Piedmont and
Coastal Plain of the Mid-Atlantic Region from Pennsylvania to Virginia.

Betula nigra is more disease-free and better adapted to heat than other birches. The foremost cultivar, Betula nigra ‘Cully’ (also sold as HERITAGE®), exfoliates more heavily than the species and other cultivars, with a greater combination of outer bark colors and a light—sometimes almost white—inner bark. As a bonus, it is vigorous and extremely resistant to bronze birch borer. Planted as a lawn or specimen tree or in a naturalized setting, this birch draws attention in all seasons.
Video © 2019 Mary Free

Print Version (Legal Size): Betula nigra (River Birch, Red Birch)

Tree Height: 50–70 feet Spread: 35–50 feet Bloom Color: Yellow-green from April-May Characteristics Fast-growing, deciduous tree with single or (more desirable) multiple trunks, irregular crown Oval or triangular leaves 1–12⁄3 inches long, alternate, simple Male flowers: 2–3 inches long, red-green catkins Female flowers: 1⁄4–1⁄2 inch long, light-green upright catkins, which become cone-like fruits Young trunks have exfoliating, reddish bark; older trunks are a deeply furrowed gray with pink tints Attributes Tolerates clay soil, wet soil, drier soil, compacted sites, heat, and air pollution; intolerant of shade Greater pest and disease resistance than other birches; deer rarely damage Attractive bark peels in papery layers to reveal multiple colors, providing interest in winter & snow Attracts birds to its seeds; larval host of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Red-spotted Purple butterflies and numerous moth species Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Humus-rich, acidic soil Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Shade Water Requirements: Moist, Wet Use as a lawn tree, in rain gardens (larger than 150 sq ft) or on stream banks (to control erosion) Hardiness: USDA Zones 4–9 Excellent Replacement for Albizia julibrissin - Mimosa / Silk Tree Allanthus altissima - Tree of Heaven Alnus glutinosa - European Alder Pyrus calleriana - Callery (Bradford) Pear Salix babylonica - Weeping Willow
Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets