Revised June 2008

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Selecting Landscape Plants: Shade Trees

River birch (Betula nigra)

Medium-sized trees

River birch
River birch
  • Maximum height
    60 feet
  • Relative growth rate
    Good
  • Freedom from insect pests
    Good
  • Freedom from disease problems
    Excellent
  • Resistance to storm damage
    Good
  • Will grow on poorly drained soil
    Excellent
  • Will grow in hot, dry areas
    Poor
  • Easy to transplant
    Good
  • Withstands city conditions
    Good

The most interesting characteristic of the river birch is its salmon-colored bark that peels off in paper-thin layers. The tree is noted for its ability to grow in wet soils, but it will grow in drier situations. The river birch has been greatly ignored in favor of the more showy white-barked birches, but it is a fine ornamental and should be planted more. It is not as susceptible to stem-boring insects as the white-barked birches.


G6800, revised June 2008

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G6800 Selecting Landscape Plants: Shade Trees | Page 19 | University of Missouri Extension