River birch

River Birch

Scientific Name

Betula nigra

Order

Fagales

Family

Betulaceae

Type

Tree

Endangered Status

Least concern

Number of Recorded Individuals at the Zoo

19

River birch

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Physical Description

River birch can grow either as a single stem or multi-stem tree and has peeling, salmon-colored bark that provides habitat for insects and foraging birds. In early spring, the tree is ornamented with showy catkin flowers before the green diamond-shaped leaves emerge for summer and then turn yellow in the fall. This birch can grow in either full sun or partial shade but prefers moist locales. Its unique features allow it to stand out as a single specimen tree or as a group. The river birch is a pioneer tree, helping to re-establish growth in disturbed areas near water. Its palatable bark and multi-stemmed trunk make this species a favorite for beavers building their dams, as well as a browse favorite for the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Native Range

Eastern United States

USDA Hardiness Zone

4–9

Average Mature Height

55 feet

Flower Color

Yellow-green

Flowering Months

April–May

Supports

Birds and small mammals

Yellow flowers

Second Saturday Garden Tours

Join fellow nature lovers for a free, guided tour of Lincoln Park Zoo’s diverse plant life and ecosystems. During each tour, a zoo horticulturist will point out interesting species in bloom, answer questions from guests, and discuss the horticulture program’s past, present, and future.

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An Accredited Arboretum

In 2019, Lincoln Park Zoo earned Level II arboretum accreditation in recognition of the Horticulture staff’s ongoing effort to identify, label, and monitor the more than 330 species of trees, shrubs, and woody plants represented across the 49-acre park.