Birch, Water or River

Betula occidentalis

Betulaceae - Birch Family

Description

Leaves: Alternate; simple; 1" to 2" long; 3/4" to 1-1/2" wide; deciduous; ovate or somewhat rounded; singly or doubly serrate margin; acute or acuminate apex; somewhat rounded base; glabrous; thin; dark green above; light yellow-green beneath; dull yellow in fall; petiole stout, 1/3" to 1/2" long.

Twigs/buds: Twigs light green when young, becoming dark red-brown; glandular when young, covered with horizontal lenticels when older.  No terminal bud; lateral buds 1/4" long, pointed, resinous, brown.

Flowers/fruit: Monoecious.  Fruit small, winged nutlet arranged in a cone-like catkin; cylindrical; hangs down; 1" to 1-1/4" long; scaly; matures in fall.

Bark: Thin; smooth but broken by distinct, long, horizontal lenticels; dark, shiny reddish-brown to almost purple; very characteristic.

Wood: Unimportant; seldom used.  Light colored sapwood; heartwood light brown; diffuse-porous; strong; used for firewood, fenceposts.

General: Native to much of the western U.S. and southern Canada.  Utah's only native birch.  Occurs naturally in moist areas along streams and lakes.  Usually a small tree with many stems coming from the base, occasionally up to 30-40' tall.  Intermediate shade tolerance.

Landscape Use: This is a nice, multi-stemmed tree that does well when planted in Utah's valleys if very hot, dry sites are avoided.  Probably more borer resistant that other birches, and able to withstand moderately high soil pH.  Zones 3-7.

Comments & Limitations:  Prefers abundant water, but may survive on drier sites.

Characteristics

General

Betulaceae - Birch
Family:
No
Cultivar Availability:
3 - 7
Hardiness Zone:
Broadleaf
Type:
Yes
Utah Native:

Growth

Low
Growth Rate:
Low
Mature Height:
Medium
Longevity:
Yes
Power Lines:
Shrubby
Crown Shape:

Ornamental

Yes
Bark:
Yes
Fall Color:
No
Flowers:
No
Foliage:
No
Fruit:

Tolerance of...

Medium
Shade:
Medium
Salt:
Low
Drought:
High
Poor Drainage:
Medium
Alkalinity:
Medium
Transplanting:
x

Family

A group of closely related species and genera; scientific name ends in 'aceae'.

x

Cultivar Availability

Cultivar Availability means that selected, genetically pure trees are available with known characteristics. Cultivars often prove to be more desirable than trees grown from seed or collected in the wild.

x

USDA Hardiness Zone

Pick a hardiness zone to show which trees are suitable.

x

Tree Type

Select Conifer for pines, firs, junipers, ginkgo, and other conifers (gymnosperms). Select Broadleaf for trees with broad, flat leaves (more or less) (angiosperms).

x

Utah Native

Utah Native

x

Growth Rate

Growth rate refers to height growth for the first ten years after a tree is planted. Select Low for less than 12-inches/year height growth. Select Low-Medium for low or medium growth rate. Select Medium for 12- to 24-inches/year height growth. Select Medium-High for medium or high growth rate. Select High for more than 24-inches/year height growth.

x

Mature Height

Mature height will vary considerably by cultivar and site and is shown here assuming adequate care. Select Low for less than 20 feet mature height. Select Low-Medium for low or medium mature height. Select Medium for 20 to 40 feet mature height. Select Medium-High for medium or high mature height. Select High for more than 40 feet mature height.

x

Longevity

The typical life span of a good tree in a suburban neighborhood is 30 to 50 years, while downtown trees may only last 5 to 10 years. People tend to plant fast-growing trees that often have fairly short lives. While some of this is all right, homeowners and communities should also plant trees that might grow slower (though some grow quite fast) but that are longer-lived. Select Low for less than 25 years typical life span. Select Medium for 25 to 50 years typical life span. Select High for more than 50 years typical life span.

x

Powerline Suitability

Only very short trees should be planted under or directly adjacent to overhead electric lines. Medium height trees should be offset 15 to 20 feet horizontally from electric lines. Large trees should be offset 30 feet. Wider crowned trees like elms or maples should be offset more than narrower crowned trees like spruces or firs. If you suspect that you are planting in an area with underground electric lines or other buried utilities, call Blue Stakes at 1-800-662-4111 to have utilities located and marked. 'Yes' in this database means a tree is suitable for planting directly under powerlines. 'No' means it is not.

x

Crown Shapes

Crown shape varies considerably by cultivar and sometimes by site. The common crown shape for a species is shown as follows: Pyramidal, Round, Columnar, Weeping, Broad, Oval, Vase, Layered, Shrubby, and Irregular.

x

Ornamental Features

Ornamental characteristics are important factors in tree selection even though they usually have little to do with whether a tree can survive and thrive on its site. Ornamental factors to consider include flower and fruit presence and appearance, foliage color and texture, bark characteristics, shade density, fall color, and winter appearance. Some trees have thorns or spines, objectionable odors, a tendency to have basal or root sprouts, or maintenance-related needs that also should be considered. 'Yes' in this database means that a species is noted for a particular ornamental feature; 'No' means it is not, though there may be exceptions depending on cultivar.

x

Tolerance of Shade

Shade tolerant plants often are best planted in at least partial shade, though many will do well in full sun. Shade intolerant plants usually need full sun to thrive.

x

Tolerance of Salt

Generally means tolerance to salt on above ground plant surfaces, though may indicate some tolerance to soil salinity.

x

Tolerance of Drought

Indicates the tree's tolerance of low soil moisture, heat and/or low humidity.

x

Tolerance of Poor Drainage

Indicates the tree's tolerance to waterlogging, compaction, or otherwise poorly oxygenated soil.

x

Tolerance of Alkalinity

Indicates the tree's tolerance of high soil pH or soil alkalinity; soil pH above 6.5 or 7.

x

Ease of Transplanting

This describes a tree's relative likelihood of transplanting success. A low ranking indicates a plant that may need extra care at planting and may do better if transplanted while fairly small. Select Low for low transplanting difficulty. Select Medium for medium transplanting difficulty. Select High for high transplanting difficulty.

x

Add Trees to Favorites

The button to the right of the tree name allows you to add the tree as a favorite (stored as a browser cookie). For example, if the "Alder, European or Common" is one of your favorite trees click or touch the button to the right of the tree name and it will be added to your favorites. You will then be able to view your favorites as long as you are on the same device.