If you’re looking for a tree with an interesting branch structure and leaves that dazzle in the wind and the sunlight, look no further than a river birch tree.
These trees have a multi-stemmed trunk and cinnamon and cream peeling bark that provides color and interest all year long. And they thrive in wet soil, such as along ponds and streams or in low-lying spots of your yard.
It is a very adaptable species with quite a tolerance for poorly drained soils and warm conditions.
These are more than a few reasons river birch can be a great addition to your yard.
You may have a river birch in your landscape or maybe you’re thinking about it as the next tree you’d like to plant. Let’s look at river birch trees and some care tips to ensure they thrive in your space.
River birch trees are fast-growing, deciduous trees that can reach between 40 and 70 feet in height.
River birch tree leaves are diamond-shaped and are part of an upright, spreading canopy. In the fall, the river birch brings a yellow-gold color that radiates sun in the landscape.
While the tree leaves that flutter in the wind are beautiful, river birch tree bark is what really steals the show. It’s silvery-gray when young before changing to a pink-ish brown when mature.
Flowers in the spring and winter are followed by small brown or green cones in summer.
The beautiful bark and leaves of a river birch tree make it a common landscape choice. But there are also some fun river birch tree facts that give it history and character.
River birch are tolerant of very acidic soils. In fact, they’ve even been used in strip mine reclamation where the soils have become too acidic as a result of mining waste.
Because river birch trees easily populate habitats destroyed by fire, it is known as a pioneer species. While they have a history of growing along river banks to help with erosion control, the wood was also once used to make wooden shoes and yokes for oxen.
This type of birch is one of the more borer-resistant species.
Luckily, river birch trees tend to be more resistant to insects and diseases than other members of the birch family. However, there are a few things to watch out for.
Leaf blight, for instance, is one disease that can impact river birch. The leaf blight fungus infects the tree in conditions that are very wet. Small brown or black spots on the youngest leaves are the first sign, followed by the tree losing up to 40 percent of its leaves during the summer. To fight this river birch tree disease, gather and remove affected leaves that drop to the ground so the fungus will not attack again next year. Proper care and growing conditions can prevent this disease from striking in the first place.
Every spring, these trees can also be visited by two common river birch tree pests: sawfly larva and aphids. Aphids are small insects sometimes called plant lice. They are comparable to grains of rice in size. Sawflies resemble small wasps, and their larvae look like hairless caterpillars. They have green bodies with black dots and are often found lining the edges of river birch tree leaves. In fact, both pests feed on leaves in the spring Leaves of river birch are also often skeletonized by Japanese beetles in the summer in areas with large numbers of beetles. Once the insects move on, well-established trees frequently recover. Pest management is more important for newly-planted trees.