Different Types of River Birch Trees
Botanically known as the Betula nigra, river birch is a multi-stemmed, deciduous, and fast-growing tree. Popularly grown as a shade tree, they find heavy use in all landscapes. As is apparent, most river birch varieties grow near the river banks. However, a popular landscape plant, you may find them in almost all environments across America.
As one of the most adaptable birch varieties, the River Birch is tolerant to wetness. However, extended periods of drought may not be suitable for its growth. They can tolerate poorly-drained soil and warmer conditions than most other Birch species.
Typically planted in the fall or spring, people grow them as burlap, balled, or container plants.
This guide discusses the various types of river birch trees. Let us get started and address them one by one.
- Heritage® River Birch Clump
- Shiloh Splash
- Little King’ (Fox Valley®)
- Studetec` (Tecumseh Compact®)
- Summer Cascade
River Birch: At A Glance
|Scientific Name||Betula nigra|
|Hardiness Zones||Four through Nine|
|Native to||North America|
|Soil||It needs moist soil. So, water it frequently. The soil should have a pH between 5-6.5|
|Temperature||-60 F to 70 F|
|Water||River birch varieties like water. They thrive in moist soil. Hence, you need to deeply water it weekly. It cannot grow in extended drought periods. Also, it may suffer disease or insect problems when the soil is not moist. You can add a thick mulch layer for the soil to retain water.|
|Light||They like full sun to partial shade.|
|Common names||River birch, water birch, black bird, red birch|
|Lifespan||They live between 50 and 75 years.|
|Height||Typically, the different types of river birch trees grow 40–70′ high with a spread of 40–60′ at maturity.|
|Growth rate||They have a medium to fast growth rate and grow 1 ½ to 2 feet a year.|
River Birch Cultivars
Here is a quick rundown of the top river birch varieties.
1. Heritage® River Birch Clump
These are one of the most popular river birch kinds. Multi-trunk Heritage River Birch Clump is a decently tall plant thirty-five feet in height and twenty-five feet spread. They grow in USDA hardiness zone three and appreciate full sun to part shade.
Even though it does not have a specific soil preference, it does like the alkaline soils that usually cause chlorosis in the plant.
Also known as the Red Birch, people grow the Heritage River Birch Clump for its spectacular fall color. It has a peeling bark in tan, brown, and white colors. One distinguishing factor between Heritage River Birch Clump and the other different types of river birch trees is that its bark is relatively more creamy white than others. The plant has a low canopy with the bottom clearance only about three feet from the ground.
It has a fast growth rate and a lifespan of seventy years, sometimes more. People usually grow it in the landscape for accent or shade. Please remember these river birch varieties demand high maintenance and require regular upkeep. Prune them in summer to prevent sap bleed in early spring and late winter.
Dura Heat is one of the most improved river birch cultivars, given their impeccable disease and insect resistance. It is a conical, medium-sized, charging tree that grows through USDA hardiness zones three through seven. Hence, it can grow in almost all American states.
They are about thirty or forty feet tall and have a fast growth rate, growing two to three (warmer regions) feet per year.
These river birch varieties have glossy, green leaves, which change their color to yellow in the fall season. Beyond foliage, even its bark changes its color to pinkish-orange upon exfoliation. Popular as a shade tree, this deciduous tree has a high heat tolerance.
The plant can tolerate flooded areas and grows in moist to wet soil. However, you can also see them thriving in the typical garden conditions. It needs full sun and has no severe pest concerns.
3. Shiloh Splash
Do you need one of those types of river birch trees that are the easiest to care for? If yes, Shiloh Splash can be an ideal pick. It is a beautiful plant with a conical to an oval shape, which grows to twelve feet high and eight feet wide. The plant has the most incredible variegated leaves with magnificent exfoliating white bark. It peels to reveal the brown layer underneath, a winter delight.
The plant has small green leaves, beautified with imperfect and irregular white margins. These pointy leaves change their colors to yellow in the fall. Like Dura-Heat, it thrives in acidic soil and may develop chlorosis in alkaline soil.
It is an alluring deciduous tree that grows in USDA hardiness zone 4A. Shiloh Splash has a fine texture distinguishing it from the other landscape plants with relatively less refined foliage. Lastly, it is a high-maintenance plant and demands timely upkeep to maintain its beautiful appearance. Prune only in summers to prevent sap-bleed.
4. Little King’ (Fox Valley®)
Known as both Little King and Dwarf Valley, these river birch varieties are a perfect pick for those with a smaller garden. Priced for its beautiful, peeling bark, it is a multi-branched, ornamental tree.
The bark is reddish-brown and pale salmon in the beginning but exfoliates to reveal the lighter, inner bark that is almost pure white. It is a fast-growing plant but only grows to 10’ with a 12’ spread.
Little King has a broad-rounded to broad-pyramidal habit, and you can buy it in a bundle of two or three trees. It is a host plant to over four hundred varieties of moths and butterflies. Hence, it is the perfect pick for butterfly lovers.
Fox Valley river birch tree varieties have been lauded by the Cary and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awards, the two recognitions for plants in New England. It is a pest-resistant, hardy plant with beautiful green birch leaves.
It needs average soil and full sun to part shade for thriving. Native to extremely damp conditions with acidic soil, it can also tolerate clayey and average or well-drained soils. It is a low-maintenance River Birch that requires almost no pruning.
5. Studetec`(Tecumseh Compact®)
Commonly referred to as the Tecumseh Compact™ Red birch or the Tecumseh Compact™ river birch, this specimen from the Birch or Betulaceae family is one of the compact river birch types. The deciduous tree grows in USDA hardiness zone five and is about 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
It has a beautiful orange-cinnamon exfoliating bark, hanging branching habit, and weeping branches. So, if you need one of the smaller River Birches for your home or garden, it can be one of the alternatives to consider.
6. Summer Cascade
Discovered at the Shiloh Nursery in Harmony, North Carolina, it is one of the new weeping river birch varieties, which has a drooping branching habit, much like the Tecumseh Compact. It is also a small beautiful tree and can be a valuable addition to a compact garden or yard. You can plant it anywhere. It will always be the focal point or the specimen in its surrounding.
Upon maturity, it reaches between eight and fifteen feet with a ten feet spread. When trained or staked, it can grow to about thirty feet. It has a fast growth rate. It is a low-maintenance, adaptable plant that enjoys wet sites and thrives in rocky, sandy, acidic, and moist soil. They particularly like the well-drained loam and prefer partial shade to full sun. It shows decent resistance to Birch Leaf Miner and excellent resistance to Bronze Birch Borer. Do not prune them in spring or winter as it may cause sap-bleed.
River Birch Uses
Here is a list of applications of the different river birch types.
- River Birch’s buds are boiled to achieve a thick paste-like ointment. Then after adding sulfur to this cream, it works as a treatment against ringworms and skin sores.
- People chew its leaves or make tea with it and use it as a home remedy against dysentery, cold, gastrointestinal issues, and urinary aid.
- Bark infusion helps cure stomach issues and is a quick relief against milky urine.
- Its peeled bark helps make baskets, buckets, storage bins, and canoes.
- Sap has a sweet flavor, consumed as a refreshing drink. People concentrate it in sugar or syrup and even ferment it to make vinegar or beer.
- Young types of river birch trees’ branches are used to make whisks and besoms.
- Given its solid root system, the Rich birch also helps prevent soil erosion alongside the banks of the streams.
- Birchwood helps make turnery and furniture.
- Since the River Birch wood burns fast, people use it as firewood.
- Its bark has antifungal properties. Hence, it helps infiltrate bins and prevent pests.
- The bark is also a source of wild yeast and helps make yeast starter solutions.
Related: Birch Tree Varieties
Frequently Asked Questions
Ques 1. Are there dwarf river birch trees?
Ans. You can find river birch trees in all shapes and sizes. One of the dwarf river birch varieties is the Fox Valley River Birch.
Ques 2. How do you keep a river birch small?
Ans. You can keep your river birch tree varieties small by using hand pruners. These can help trim the smaller branches, usually less than ½ inch in diameter. However, if the branches are about three inches in diameter, you can use loppers for pruning. If the stems are even bigger, trim them with a hand saw.
Ques 3. What is the difference between a river birch and a Heritage river birch?
Ans. Heritage River Birch is one of the popular river birches. While River Birch has a cinnamon-colored bark and more peeling bark, Heritage River Birch is more orangey or cream-colored and sheds sheets of bark.
All different types of river birch trees have been much loved by gardeners and plant lovers. They are easy to grow and maintain. Now that we have established the difference between various river birches, we hope you have decided what kind is your favorite. It’s time to get your hands and knees muddy and embrace gardening.