Betula nigra L.

River Birch, Red Birch

Family: Betulaceae

Genus: Betula

Category: Tree - Deciduous

Zones: 3 to 9

Size: 40 to 60' tall and 30 to 40' wide

Growth Rate: Fast

Exposure: Sun, Filtered Sun, Part Shade


Leaves alternate, simple, 1.5 to 3.5" long, to 2.5" wide, sharply pointed, diamond shaped, and doubly serrate, dark green above and glaucous below.

Can tolerate moist to wet soils once established.

winter feature is the exfoliating bark.

May be short-lived. Pruning in winter and spring causes the sap to bleed from the cuts and although this does not harm the tree it is best to prune in summer and autumn. Naturally single stemmed cut often sold in multi-trunked form. Good shade tree, specimen or group planting.

One of the best birches for the South.


'Heritage' - found as a seedling in 1968 and introduced by Earl Cully, Heritage Trees Inc., Jacksonville, IL. Superior form and particularly well adapted to the South. Rapid growth, larger shinier leaves and colorful bark. PP#4,409. RHS Award of Garden Merit 2002.


Native to eastern and central US, including South Carolina and Georgia. Introduced to England in 1756 by Peter Collinson.

First published in Sp. Pl. 2: 982 in 1753.

'Nigra' = black - apparently referring to the color of the bark in the wild species although this is usually listed as brown.

Sources of Information

© 2010-12 Lisa J. Miner