River Birch

A tree native to Frederick County, more common to the south, is the river birch (Betula nigra). River birch normally grow along stream bottoms in conjunction with trees like sycamore, silver maple, green ash, willow, hackberry, and box elder. River birch need plenty of sunlight to grow and will not tolerate shady conditions very long. The river birch has the most southerly distribution of any of the other native birches, and it is somewhat unusual because it develops its wind borne seed pods, “catkins,” in the spring, unlike most birch that produce catkins in the fall. River birch has whitish – pink exfoliating bark, similar to the white and paper birch of the north, with the river birch having more of a pink tone. In Frederick County and northward, the river birch is a medium sized tree rarely growing above 70 feet tall. In the southern part of its range, the birch grows much larger, easily attaining a height of 100 feet.

Credit: maryland.gov
Credit: maryland.gov
Credit: maryland.gov

River birch wood is light weight, but very strong. In the Carolinas, river birch is often used for baskets. River birch seedlings are often used in reforestation projects around streams and wetlands since it grows fast, is very hardy, and can withstand seasonally wet conditions. Many ornamental cultivars of the river birch, such as the Heritage birch, have been developed for landscape plantings, since this tree is not susceptible to the bronze birch borer like the white or paper birch. Along with the river birch, both the black and yellow birches are native to Frederick County.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Note for 8/6/2017