Botanical Name: Betula nigra
Common Name: River Birch, Red Birch, Black Birch, Water Birch
Description: River birch is a beautiful tree native to Florida. Its distinguishing characteristic is its outstanding peeling cinnamon-colored bark. It grows in the wetlands and is best adapted to moist soils. Although it is extremely heat tolerant, in dry years it will shed inner leaves. It prefers an acid soil of 6.5 or less, becoming chlorotic in high pH situations. The fine textured foliage can turn a good yellow in autumn but soon drop. The trunk is often divided into several large arching branches close to the ground, and the pyramidal growth form is graceful in youth. River birch ranges from about 40-50′ tall x 20-30′ wide though some grow to 90 feet. It is usually not bothered by insects or diseases. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds. Fast growing shade tree.
The flower inflorescence on this tree is catkin, with gold/yellow or light green flowers, that can be 1-3 inches in size, that are showy and bloom in the spring.
Its native habitat is in river floodplains. Although native to floodplains, it is not tolerant of extended periods of flooding. It grows best in clay, loam, or sandy soils, in sun to part sun.
Is larval host for Mourning Cloak and Dreamy Duskywing butterflies.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2-4′ tall.
This plant in 7-gallon containers is 4-6′ tall, multi-trunk.
This plant in 15-gallon containers is 6-8′ tall.
Plant Lore: This is the southernmost birch in the US.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8-9