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

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
  • Freedom from insect pests
  • Freedom from disease problems
  • Resistance to storm damage
  • Will grow on poorly drained soil
  • Will grow in hot, dry areas
  • Easy to transplant
  • Withstands city conditions

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.

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