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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Betula nigra L.)

River birch
River birch

BIRCH FAMILY (Betulaceae)


FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A deciduous tree growing to 30 m. in height. The bark can be reddish to brown to black, and peels in curled strips. The leaves are alternate and irregularly oval to triangular-oval, 4-8 cm. long, pale beneath, and the margins of upper portions are doubly serrate, while the lower margins are shallowly lobed. Catkins are 1.5-3 cm. long. The pistillate catkins are cone-like and disintegrate when ripe. Staminate catkins form in summer and open the following spring. In flower during April and May. Similar to yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis).

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: River birch is found in floodplain forests and hardwood swamps. Its preferred germination sites are sandbars exposed after spring floods have receded.

SOURCE: Brockman (1979); Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Swink and Wilhelm (1994); and Voss (1985).

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