Bradford pear not !! — Birch tree

I continue with I’m not a fan of Bradford Pears. Today’s topic of something better is Birch Trees. What’s my favorite thing about birches? They just look good all year especially with against a snowy background, and even when wet.  You can’t say that for a Bradford pear when it gets to the age that limbs break off and it doesn’t have leaves to hide the damage. They are a laid back tree, nothing stiff about them, they talk country.  Most have multiple trunks and the peeling bark is so cool.

Birches can get up to 40-50 feet tall. They prefer acidic moist soil, and don’t do well in compacted areas with their shallow roots. They aren’t a good tree for planting next to the driveways or paths.

I really like the look of white bark birches but they don’t do well in the hot south.  I have three Heritage Birches in my yard. They have done well during the several droughts we have with little watering. If they don’t get enough moisture they will compensate by loosing a lot of their leaves.  The trunks and limbs are peeling off wonderfully and have given a great look to the yard along with my Paperbark maples which I’ll show in another post.   When I purchased my two Heritage birches for the front yard I also bought a large weeping birch for the middle bed.  It did not survive the winter, but I feel it had a borer disease issue when it was sold to me by the nursery.  I replace it with a native flowering Sourwood tree.  To show off my birches I have solar spotlights trained on each.

The hooligans sat out in the snow looking down the road for us to return while we were at Callaway Gardens.   Two afternoons this week I found one of my planters with pansies dug out.  Now there is a tomato cage protecting it.  If you visit my yard you’ll see anti-hooligan cages around several of my smaller trees and shrubs.

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Listing of Birch trees from the USDA website

Common Names/
Scientific Name
Bark Characteristics Susceptibility to
Insect Pests
General Comments
Paper Birch
White Birch
Canoe Birch
Betula papyrifera
On young trees the bark is brown; it turns white as the tree ages. The bark peels on older trees. – Susceptible to birch leafminer
– Moderately susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Native white-barked birch
– A good selection in far northern climates (USDA Hardiness Zone 3), although it also does well further south (Ohio, Illinois)
– Tolerates alkaline soils well
Gray Birch
Betula populifolia
Chalky white non-peeling bark – Susceptible to birch leafminer
– Moderately susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Native to the northeastern United States
Jacquemonti Birch
Whitebarked
Himalayan Birch

Betula jacquemontii
White bark that peels – Susceptibility to birch leafminer is unknown
– Highly susceptible to bronze birch borer
– May be difficult to find in nurseries; more common in the eastern United States 

– Generally not recommended as a landscape tree because of its susceptibility to bronze birch borer

European White Birch
Sliver Birch

Betula pendula
White non-peeling bark that turns black as it ages – Susceptible to birch leafminer
– Highly susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Very susceptible to insect problems; therefore, it is not recommended as a landscape tree
Young’s Weeping Birch
European White
Weeping Birch

Betula pendula ‘Youngii’
White bark that peels – Susceptible to birch leafminer
– Highly susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Weeping habit; no central leader
– A variety of European white birch
Whitespire Birch
Betula platyphylla japonica ‘Whitespire’
White non-peeling bark – Susceptible to birch leafminer
– Moderately susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Considered more heat tolerant than other white-barked birches; therefore, it is often recommended for planting further south than most other white-barked birch trees
Crimson Frost Birch
Betula platyphylla var. szechuanica x Betula pendula
‘Purpurea’
‘Crimson Frost’
White bark with cinnamon tones that peels – Insect susceptibility unknown – Deep red leaves
– Fall foliage varies from crimson to orange-yellow
– Prefers moist soil; does well in heavy clay soil
– A few other “red-leaf” birches are now available
River Birch
Red Birch

Betula nigra
Salmon-colored bark that peels and turns to dark red-brown plates as it ages – Susceptible to birch leafminer, although attack is generally not severe
– Resistant to bronze birch borer
– Native to the southern United States and along the Mississippi River as far north as St. Paul, MN
– Can do well on wet soils although it also grows well on drier soils
– Sensitive to alkaline soils with a pH greater than 6.5
– A good selection in southern climates (USDA Hardiness Zone 6) although it also does well in cooler climates (Hardiness Zones 4 and 5)
Heritage Birch
Heritage River Birch
Betula nigra ‘Heritage’
Salmon-colored bark that peels; lighter in color than the native river birch – Susceptible to birch leafminer, although attack is generally not severe
– Resistant to bronze birch borer
– A variety of the native river birch
– Can do well on wet soils although it also grows well on drier soils
– Sensivitve to alkaline soils with a pH greater than 6.5
– A good selection in southern climates (USDA Hardiness Zone 6) although it also does well in cooler climates (Hardiness Zones 4 and 5)
Yellow Birch
Betula alleghaniensis
Yellow-orange bark that peels and turns to reddish-brown as it ages – Resistant to birch leafminer
– Moderately susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Native to the Great Lakes region and the northeastern United States
– Can be grown in more shade than the other birches
– May be difficult to find available in nurseries
– Not widely planted as an ornamental
– Requires a cool, moist planting site
Sweet Birch
Black Birch
Cherry Birch

Betula lenta
Brown to almost black; becomes platey as the tree ages – Resistant to birch leafminer
– Moderately susceptible to bronze birch borer
– Native to the northeastern United States
– May be difficult to find available in nurseries
– Not widely planted as an ornamental
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2 Responses to Bradford pear not !! — Birch tree

  1. Phillip says:

    Great information! I love the River Birch tree. I have 3 in the garden, actually next to the house (in front and back). I love seeing the bark out the window during the winter time.

  2. Phillip are you having trouble with volunteers coming up? A friend of mine said she is having that trouble. I haven’t seen that problem with my Heritage birches

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