River Birch (Nigra) is generally described as
a perennial tree.
native to the U.S. (United States)
has its most active growth period in the
spring and summer .
The greatest bloom is usually observed in the
with fruit and seed production starting in the
spring and continuing until
not retained year to year.
River Birch (Nigra) has a
short life span relative to most other plant species and a
rapid growth rate.
At maturity, the typical
River Birch (Nigra) will reach up to
70 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of
River Birch (Nigra) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by
bare root, container, cuttings, seed.
It has a
rapid ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have
Note that cold stratification is
not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below
low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.
Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.
Economic: River birch sap can be fermented to make birch beer or vinegar. The wood is used to manufacture inexpensive furniture, woodenware, wooden shoes, basket materials, toys, staves, and fuel.
Ethnobotanic: The leaves were chewed, or used as an infusion in the treatment of dysentery. An infusion of the bark was used to treat stomach problems and difficult urination (Moerman 1998).
Landscaping &Wildlife: Betula nigra is a very attractive ornamental tree. It is a desirable specimen for estates, golf courses, parks, and public grounds. Many species of birds eat the seeds including wild turkey and grouse. The leaves are browsed by white-tailed deer.
Conservation: River birch is used for strip mine reclamation and erosion control (Grelen 1990). It is used in forested riparian buffers to help reduce stream bank erosion, protect water quality, and enhance aquatic environments.
General: Birch family (Betulaceae). River birch is a deciduous medium to large-sized native tree. The leaves are alternate, double serrated, wedge-shaped, and sharp pointed. The flowers are unisexual, borne in separate male and female catkins on the same tree. The bark is light brown to buff, paperlike; exfoliating on young trees, turning to scaly bark on older trees.
Required Growing Conditions
River birch is distributed throughout North America. It extends from southern New England, west to Kansas and Minnesota, and south to Texas and Florida. For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Adaptation River birch can survive on drier soils, although it is best adapted to moist soils and is usually found along stream banks and in swampy bottomlands that are periodically flooded. Maximum development is reached in fertile areas with a pH of 6.5 to 4.0. It is intolerant of shade and requires full sunlight.
Cultivation and Care
Propagation by Seed: Sow seeds in containers or seed trays containing a seed germination medium to which a slow release fertilizer is added. Firm the medium and sow seeds thinly and evenly on top, and cover to desired depth with planting medium (Heuser 1997). Place pots in a sunny location in a cold frame. When seedlings are large enough to handle they should be placed into individual pots and grown in a cold frame for their first winter.
General Upkeep and Control
Fertilize young trees in late winter before new growth begins to ensure faster growth. Don’t prune this birch and other birches until summer because they are “bleeders” and should not be cut when the sap is flowing.
River birch is quite disease resistant but has severe problems in early spring with aphids and is favored by gypsy moth larvae.
BEOC2Nursery grown seedlings should be planted onto moist sites. The seedlings should be transplanted when they are one to two years old. The best time for transplanting is in the spring as the buds begin to turn green.
Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA