River birch ( Betula Nigra )

This tree came with the house and it took me a while to get an id on it. The peeling bark on the stems adds great texture to the garden. The tree is very full and topped out at about 18′ with an 18′ spread. It can reach 50′ tall with a 40′ spread but I’ve not seen it that large locally.

This tree loves to grow in wet places. When it rains this area it is in is wet for days. In dry summers it is not so wet but the river birch seems to handle the dry spells well.

In the fall the leaves turn yellow and fall off, it will re-leaf out late spring.

River birches are grown in clumps and lower branches are removed just for a cleaner look, and so you can see that cool bark.

It doesn’t mind clay soils, making it a great choice for the Houston area. Leaves may be more yellow in alkaline areas, it prefers slightly acidic soils.

River birches want full sun.

I’ve a terrible problem with falling dead twigs off this tree. I had originally thought is was just the way these trees are. That is not the case. The problem is the ‘tree girdler beetle’. This beetle cuts the twigs, lays eggs on the twigs and they drop to the ground sending baby out into the world. There isn’t much of any treatment except to remove the twigs as they fall to keep future generations away from your tree.

Though not naturally short lived it may be so in urban or dry areas, living only 20 or 30 years. In wet areas it will live a long, full life.

Note: Survived the great drought and extreme heat of summer 2011
Note: Didn’t survive the summer of 2012, I think the two back to back drought years did it in.