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Native Plant of the Week: River Birch

Family: Betulaceae (Birch)

Name: Betula nigra - River Birch or Black Birch

Pictures: Male Catkins (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Exfoliating bark (KMS Native Plants), Autumn Color (Chris-Kreussling CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Bloom Time: March

Flower: Catkin

Soil Condition: Average, Moist, Wet, Acidic, Well Drained

Light: Sun, Partial Shade

Height: 40-70' tall by

Native Range: Eastern United States including Long Island

Zone: 3 to 9

One of my favorite native trees! Betula nigra has it all; a graceful silhouette, catkins in the spring, lovely green foliage during the growing season, golden yellow foliage in the fall and cinnamon-brown exfoliating bark. It is a fast growing, long lived tree. Of all the birches, River Birch is the most adaptable to our climate on Long Island. Fantastic as a specimen (focal point), or in small groupings. It will tolerate a bit of drought.

Fun Fact: Native Americans used to use the sap as a sweetener.

Maintenance: It does tend to drop a lot of twigs. Pruning is usually not necessary, but if needed, summer time is best. Do NOT prune in the winter or spring, as it will cause the tree to 'bleed'.

Benefits: somewhat deer resistant, erosion control, juglone (Black Walnut) tolerant, birds will eat seeds, host plant to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Dreamy Dusky Wing and several silk moths

Companion Plants: Clethra alnifolia - Sweet Pepperbush, Cornus florida - Common Dogwood, Athyrium filix-femina - Lady Fern, Carex rosea - Rosy Sedge



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