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River Birch

Betula nigra.

Also known as black birch or water birch, this is a species of birch native to the Eastern United States from New Hampshire west to southern Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and west to Texas. It is one of the few heat-tolerant birches in a family of mostly cold-weather trees which do not thrive in USDA Zone 6 and up.

Shipping size: 18" - 24"


  • $6.50


Betula nigra is a deciduous tree growing to 25–30 meters (80–100 ft) with a trunk 50 to 150 centimeters (20 to 60 in) in diameter. The base of the tree is often divided into multiple slender trunks.

Bark characteristics of the river birch differ during its youth stage, maturation, and old growth. The bark of a young river birch can vary from having a salmon-pink to brown-gray tint and can be described as having loose layers of curling, paper thin scales. As the tree matures, the salmon-pink color is exchanged for a reddish-brown with a dark grey base color. The scales on a mature tree lack the loose curling and are closely pressed into thick, irregular plates. These scales are slightly separated from the trunk and can shift outward to the side.

The twigs are glabrous or thinly hairy.There is an absence of terminal buds, and lateral buds often have a hook at the tip of the bud, which differs from other species in the family Betulaceae. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 4–8 centimeters (1 1⁄2–3 1⁄4 in) long and 3–6 centimeters (1 1⁄4–2 1⁄4 in) broad, with a serrated margin and five to twelve pairs of veins. The upper surface of the leaf is dark green in color, while the underside can be described as having a light yellow-green color. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins 3–6 centimeters (1 1⁄4–2 1⁄4 in) 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.

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.

For more information, visit https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=BENI

Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Zone: 4 to 9

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W3772 Hwy 156 | Pulaski, WI 54162