Soil: Acidic, Rich, Well-drained
Moisture: Average to Moist (prefers moist)
Light: Full to Part Sun, Prefers north-facing slopes
Plant Height: 50 to 75 feet
Plant Width: to 50 feet
Pests: Leaf miner, aphids, birch skeletonizer
Landscape Value: Excellent specimen tree. Great for lawns, woodland gardens, and naturalized areas.
A medium-size deciduous tree with a rounded crown and gray-black bark with irregular scaly plates. Young trees have smooth, reddish-brown bark with horizontal pores (lenticels). Foliage is dark green, turning golden-yellow in the fall. Twigs have a strong wintergreen scent if bruised. Flowers appear in early spring on separate male and female catkins, with male catkins being pendulous and female catkins erect. Female catkins yield tiny winged seeds in the fall, attracting migrating songbirds, upland ground birds, and small mammals. Seed production begins when trees are about 40 years old, but light crops can start as early as 15 years. Tolerates a wide range of soil types, including alkaline, shallow-rocky, sandy, clay, and occasionally dry. Moderately salt tolerant. Intolerant of soil compaction, seasonal flooding, and drought. After planting, water regularly during the first growing season, then irrigate during periods of drought. In hot, dry conditions, consider using soaker hoses and bark mulch to keep the root zone cool and moist. Fertilizing is not recommended, except to correct soil nutrient deficiencies. Pruning is generally not needed, however, if desired, prune in late summer to prevent sap bleeding and avoid the egg-laying season for several tree pests that infest open wounds. Moderately resistant to bronze birch borer. Leaves serve as a food source for adult Green Comma butterflies. Larval host for Mourning Cloak, Dreamy Duskywing, and White Admiral butterflies and numerous moths. Like sugar maples, can be tapped for sap which can be boiled to make syrup, used as drinking water, or fermented to create birch beer.
2 gallon pot, 3-4 feet tall
Maryland Biodiversity Project (photo by Josh Emm)
Native Plant Trust (photo by Carol Levine)
Carolina Nature (photo by Will Cook)