Well-known for its glorious pinkish-brown exfoliating bark and its graceful, wispy branches that are gorgeous year-round. Wind-pollinated catkins appear in early spring, and are followed by tiny winged seeds that mature in late spring and are eaten by numerous bird species and small mammals. Lustrous, medium-green leaves show their silvery undersides in summer breezes, and turn a bright golden-yellow in fall.
Found growing naturally in thickets along rivers, streams and lakeshores, on flood plains and in low-lying areas. Because of its broad root system, river birch is great for preventing erosion, but best sited a good distance from buildings.
Grows to 40-60’ tall at a medium to fast growth rate.
Grows best in full sun.
Prefers rich, medium to wet soils, but tolerates dry soil once established.
Resistant to the bronze birch borer.
Numerous terrestrial birds and waterfowl use this tree for cover and nesting, and several waterfowl, wild turkey and other bird species enjoy the seeds. Hummingbirds are attracted to its sap, as well as the small insects that are also attracted to the sap and often become stuck in it. River Birch is a host plant to 317 species of moth and butterfly larva, including the wavy-lined emerald (pictured here), pale beauty and dreamy duskywing moths.
Medicinal, Edible and Other Uses:
Native Americans boiled the sap to make syrup. The bark was boiled to treat digestive disorders and urinary difficulties. The leaves were chewed or made into tea to treat colds, dysentery and urinary issues. Skin sores and ringworm were treated with a salve that was made by boiling the buds until they were thick and pasty, then adding sulfur and applying externally.
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