River Birch Heritage Tree Form
The bark on the trunk varies a lot among individual plants, ranging in color from silvery gray-brown to pinkish-brown when young, but always with darker, narrow, longitudinal lentils. It is either scaly or peels off in curly papery sheets or flakes of gray, brown, salmon, peach, orange, and lavender. More mature trunks are rough and irregularly dark gray with deep fissures that may have some pink color in the crevices. Branches on older trees tend to be a smooth and shiny gray with much darker bark on the trunk. The very slender new twigs are a red-brown color, while thin branches are cinnamon-colored with many lentils. Older branches may also be exfoliating – typically in a gray-brown-light orange mixture on the species form but in shades of cream, light orange, and lavender on selected varieties. The branches are not brittle, so are not prone to wind or ice damage. Twig and branch die-back is not uncommon and these dead parts tend to be messy as they shed readily.
Because it is a large tree, river birch makes a wonderful specimen planting for larger properties. It can be used as a large focal point, to anchor the corner of a house on a large lot, or as a group of shade trees in a park or wide lawn. The high canopy casts light dappled shade when young but provides medium shade when older. This species is a good choice for low spots and wet soils, such as near streams or ponds. Because the trees use a lot of water, many shade-loving plants do thrive when planted under river birches. Hostas are tolerant of the dry shade created by river birch.
River birch should be planted in full sun in moist soils. It does well on clay as that type of soil retains moisture well. Although it is prefers wet soils this species is only moderately resistant to flooding but tolerates dry summers once established. Trees planted on moist soils live longer than those on dry sites. It transplants easily