river birch Betulaceae Betula
Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, rhombic to ovate, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, conspicuously doubly serrate, with a wedge-shaped base, green above, paler and fuzzy below.
Flower: Species is monoecious; preformed, reddish green, male catkins near the end of the twig, 2 to 3 inches long; female catkins upright, 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, light green, appear or elongate (males) in mid-spring.
Fruit: Cone-like, aggregate, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, with many hairy scales, reddish brown, containing many tiny, 3-winged seeds, ripen and break apart in the fall.
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; developing papery scales, exfoliating horizontally with several colors (creamy to orangish-brown) visible; later developing coarse scales.
Form: Medium size tree reaching up to 70 feet tall. The trunk generally divides low into several upright trunks.
Looks like: paper birch - European weeping birch - gray birch
Additional Range Information: Betula nigra is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting river birch.
More Information: Fall Color
External Links: USDAFS Silvics of North America - USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database - Horticulture Information - USDAFS Forest Products Lab
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson