Carlyle Lake


River Birch

Betula nigra


Other Name: Red Birch

River Birch Leaves
River Birch Leaves
River Birch Bark
River Birch Bark

Leaves: Alternate, simple; blades rhombic to ovate, coarsely doubly toothed, paler and densely hairy on the lower surface, up to 3 inches long, acute at the tip, truncate or tapering to the base, the leafstalks woolly.

Buds: Up to ¼ inch long, pointed hairy.

Bark: Curling, shredding, brownish-pink to reddish-brown.

Twigs: Slender, reddish-brown, with several short hairs; leaf scars alternate, half-elliptical, with 3 bundle traces.

Flowers: Staminate and pistillate on the same tree, inconspicuous, opening in late April and May, the staminate in slender drooping clusters, the pistillate in short, conelike, woolly clusters.

Fruits: Tiny, hairy nuts, each with 3-lobed wing, crowded together in a cylindrical cone up to 1 ½ inch thick.

Wood: Strong but light, pale brown.

Uses: Wood is used for furniture; sometimes planted as an ornamental.

Habitat: Along rivers and streams; bottomland woods.

Growth Form: Up to 75 feet tall; trunk diameter up to 2 feet; crown irregularly rounded.

Distinguishing Feature: The shaggy peeling reddish-brown bark readily distinguishes this tree from other in Illinois, as does its rhombic doubly teethed leaves.

Source: Mohlenbrock, Robert. Forest Trees of Illinois. Eighth Edition, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 1996.