River Birch Tree

The River Birch Tree, Latin name Betula nigra is also sometimes known as the Water Birch, Black Birch or Red Birch. This is an attractive plant from the birch family (Betulaceae) which is native to the eastern parts of the United States. It is a high tree which reaches 15 to 20 metres in height.

In its youth the bark of the River Birch Tree is white with pink bottom tiers.  As the tree grows older the the bark becomes a salmon-red to a reddish brown color.  In many River Birch Trees the bark will naturally gradually peel away from the trunk. This is a harmless process and the tree sould be left to peel in its own time without human intervention.  The peeling actually looks very pleasant and gives your tree that extra added bit of character.

The branches are long and downward hanging.  The leaves are diamond shaped, up to 8 centimetres long, with a broader base than the tip, and a gray bottom.  During the fall season the leaf color is a pleasant yellow.

Picture of River Birch tree in golden autumn sunlight with exfoliating bark and diamond shaped leaves by It'sGreg.

The plant has upright catkins which are ripe as early as may. This type of tree grows best on wet, swampy grounds.

Where to Plant a River Birch Tree

Although it is naturally inclined to like moist soil, the River Birch can grow wel on dier ground too.  The best pH level for this tree is between 4 to 6.5.  Because of the fact that these trees are sun-lovers and do not thrive well in shaded areas, you should plant your River Birch tree in a spot which has a good number of hours of sunlight through the day.  The River Birch is tree is often considered to be the best choice of white barked tree in places with a pleasantly warm climate like Texas, Califormia and Florida.

Once fully grown the branches of the River Birch give it a total spread of around 20 to 30 feet, therefore you should allow for this when measuring the distance away from your house at which to plant your tree.  As a smaller alternative you could choose a dwarf version, known as the Fox Valley Dwarf River Birch (Betula nigra 'Little King') .  This smaller variety only grows 5 to 10 feet high and is ideal for the smaller garden or simply those who prefer more petite trees.

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