University of Florida

Plant Identification Learning Module:
Ornamentals

River Birch (Betula nigra)

River birch is a medium sized, deciduous tree that grows 70 to 80 feet tall. About 15 to 20 feet above the ground, the tree tends to divide into large, arching branches, forming an irregularly spreading crown. The leaves are simple, alternate and diamond-shaped, about one to three inches long and one to two inches wide. The leaf margin is serrate. The flowers are two to three inch long reddish-green catkins that appear in the spring. The reddish brown fruits are cone-like, 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, with many hairy scales, and contain many tiny, three-winged seeds. They ripen and break apart in the fall. River birch is distinguished by reddish, brown bark peeling off in film-like papery curls