Betula nigra

(Photo by Cambrielle Sanders)

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Taxonomy (3)

Classification: Angiosperm, dicot
Family: Betulaceae
Common name: River Birch

General Information (1,2,3,4)

Region of Origin: Southeastern United States
USDA Plants Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Growth Habit: Tree

  • Size: 30-50 feet tall
  • Deciduous/Evergreen: Deciduous
  • Flowering: February to March
  • Fruiting: Spring

Diagnostic Characteristics

Leaves (2,3)

  • Arrangement: Alternate
  • Simple/Compound: Simple
  • Shape: Ovate to elliptic
  • Other: 8 centimeters long, 5.5 centimeters wide; pubescent veins on lower surface; serrate to doubly serrate

(Photo by Cambrielle Sanders)

Stem/Bark (3)

  • Color: Silver, cinnamon brown (bottom layer)
  • Texture: Peeling, satiny

(Photo by Cambrielle Sanders)

Flower (2,3)

  • Perfect/Imperfect: Imperfect
  • Color: Green or brown
  • Size: 0.5-2.5 centimeters long
  • Inflorescence type: Catkins

Fruit (2,3)

  • Fruit type: Dry nutlet
  • Size: 1-3 inches long
  • Color: Tan-brown

Horticultural Information (4)

  • Light: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Sandy
  • pH: 6.8-7.2
  • Maintenance: Easy to care for
  • Landscape Uses: Ornamental

Interesting Facts (1)

  • The River Birch is one of the 12 Birch species that extend southward from the Artic Circle. Mud is a natural bed for the seedlings and the tree is excellent for holding stream banks and thus helping to keep erosion in check.


1) Arbor Day Foundation (2013, March 31). Tree Details—The Tree Guide at Retrieved from
2) Dirr, M. (1998). Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. (5th ed., pp. 208-211). Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing L.L.C.
2) Radford, A. E., Ahles, H. E., & Bell, C. R. (1968). Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
3) TWC Staff (2012, October 15). Betula nigra (River birch) | NPIN. Retrieved from

Prepared by Cambrielle Sanders as a course requirement for BIOL 3630/5630, Spring 2013
Edited by Jessica Bartek