Botanical Name: Betula nigra
Common Name: River Birch
Origin: E. North America
Location: CNW, KN
Notable Feature: The young trunk and branches of River Birch have thin, shiny red-brown bark. With age it develops beautiful, showy, creamy coral-tan bark that exfoliates in large, thin, papery sheets.
Habit: A deciduous, medium-sized tree, 50 to 70 feet in height, typically growing as a multi-stemmed plant. The bark is smooth on young trees, salmon- to rust-colored. As the tree matures it develops papery scales that exfoliate horizontally exposing creamy white to orange brown and pinkish brown colorations.
Flower: Monoecious – both male and female catkins form on the same tree in mid-spring, with the pendulous, male flowers, up to about 3” long, and the upright, female catkins, ¼ to ½” long.
Fruit: Cone-like, 1 to 1 ½” long, with hairy scales, reddish brown, containing many tiny, 3-winged seeds which ripen and break apart in the fall.
Foliage: Alternate, simple leaves with doubly serrated margins are lustrous medium or dark green in color. The leaves turn yellow in the fall and drop quickly.
Interesting Fact: Native Americans used the boiled sap as a sweetener similar to maple syrup, and the inner bark as a survival food. River Birch is found growing from southern New England to Florida and west to Minnesota and Kansas in moist areas along stream banks.