River birch grows all the way from southern New Hampshire to the Texas Gulf Coast. The tree is very heat-tolerant and reaches its maximum size in rich alluvial soils of the lower Mississippi Valley. River birch is well named as it loves riparian zones and adapts well to wet sites. The tree's wood has very little commercial value but river birch is extremely popular as an ornamental and was selected the Urban Tree of the Year in 2002.
River birch is used mainly for local enterprises such as the manufacture of inexpensive furniture, basket hoops, and turned articles. Strength of the wood makes it suitable for the manufacture of artificial limbs and children's toys. River birch has been used successfully in strip mine reclamation. It has also been used in erosion control (13). Its graceful form, attractive bark, and high resistance to the bronze birch borer (Agrilus anxius) make it desirable for ornamental planting, especially in the Northeastern and Midwestern States.
Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of river birch. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Fagales > Betulaceae > Betula nigra. River birch is also commonly called water birch and black birch.
3. The Range of River Birch
The primary range of river birch is the southeastern quarter of the United States from eastern Texas and southeastern Iowa to Virginia and northern Florida. Scattered populations are found along rivers and streams as far north as southern Minnesota, central Wisconsin, and the middle New England States. Its northern limit in the Great Lakes region corresponds to the boundary of the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin glacier.
4. River Birch at Virginia Tech
Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, rhombic to ovate, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, conspicuously doubly serrate, with a wedge-shaped base, green above, paler and fuzzy below.
Twig: Slender, orangish brown in color, smooth or slightly pubescent, with the terminal bud absent. Lateral buds may be slightly pubescent. No wintergreen odor when cut.