All photographs are copyrighted and are the property of E. Brunner.
Native or Introduced to Illinois: native
Natural Habit in Illinois: bottomland woods
Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, rhombic to ovate, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, obviously doubly serrate, with a wedge-shaped base; green above, paler and fuzzy below.
Flower: Preformed aments, male near the end of the twig, 2 to 3 inches long. Female catkins upright, 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. Flowering in early spring.
Fruit: Cone like, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, with many hairy scales, containing tiny, 3-winged seeds.
Twig: Slender, orangish-brown in color, smooth or slightly pubescent, with the terminal bud absent. Lateral buds may be slightly pubescent. No wintergreen odor when cut.
Bark: Smooth on young trees, salmon to rust colored. On older trees, developing papery scales, exfoliating horizontally with several colors (creamy to orangish-brown) visible. Later developing coarse scales.
Size/Form/Shape: River birch is a deciduous medium to large-sized native tree.
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.
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. It is used in forested riparian buffers to help reduce stream bank erosion, protect water quality, and enhance aquatic environments.
County Distribution Map for Illinois:
Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites:
- Illinois Plant Information Network (ILPIN) @ http://www.fs.fed.us/ne/delaware/ilpin/ilpin.html#Background
- List of Woody Plants Native or Naturalized in Illinois @ http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/~kenr/woody.html
- Tree Species @ http://ostermiller.org/tree/species.html
- Index to Eastern/Central Trees @ http://www.arborday.org/trees/ECtreelist.html
- ISU Forestry Extension Identification of Common Trees of Iowa @ http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Pages/tree/
- Key to Leaves of Virginia Trees @ http://www.fw.vt.edu/dendro/forsite/key/intro.htm
- List of Native Trees for Use Along Roadsides in Illinois @ http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/~kenr/treetable.html
- The PLANTS Database @ http://plants.usda.gov/
The information below is from the National Arbor Day Foundation. This information can be viewed in the original (source) form by visiting The National Arbor Day Foundation at http://www.arborday.org.
Sun Exposure: This birch does well in partial shade to full sun.
Soil Type: The River Birch grows in acidic, loamy, moist, clay, sandy, wet, well-drained, wide range of soils.
Moisture: While it will tolerate moderate flooding, it also has some drought resistance.
Growth Rate: This tree grows at a medium to fast growth rate.
Hardiness Zones: 4 - 9
This birch can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the arborday.org zone map.