Easily grown average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. River birch is perhaps the most culturally adaptable and heat tolerant of the birches. Prefers moist, acidic, fertile soils including semi-aquatic conditions, but also tolerates drier soils. Consider using soaker hoses and bark mulches to keep the root zones cool and moist. Adapts well to heavy clay soils of Missouri and will tolerate poor drainage. Avoid pruning in spring when the sap is running.
Betula nigra, commonly called river birch, is a vigorous, fast-growing, medium-sized, Missouri native deciduous tree which occurs on floodplains, swampy bottomlands and along streams throughout the State. In cultivation, it can be trained as either a single trunk or multi-trunked tree. As a single trunk tree, it develops a pyramidal habit when young, but matures to a more rounded shape typically growing 40-70′ tall. Multi-trunked trees form a more irregular crown and are generally considered to be the superior growth habit for this species. Salmon-pink to reddish brown bark exfoliates to reveal lighter inner bark. Leathery, diamond-shaped, medium to dark green leaves (1.5-3.5″ long) with doubly toothed margins turn yellow in fall. Monoecious flowers appear in drooping, brownish male catkins and smaller, upright, greenish female catkins.
Genus name comes from the Latin name for birch.
Specific epithet means black.