Sweet birch is an attractive tree for lawns and naturalized areas, with shiny, red-brown bark and yellow foliage. Native to the eastern United States, the tree also attracts beautiful butterflies to the landscape, serving as a caterpillar/larval host. This species is resistant to bronze birch borer (BBB).
All common names:
- Residential and parks
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Wet sites,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil,
- Road salt
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Spring blossoms,
- Fall color,
- Attractive bark
Seasons of Interest:
- early fall,
- mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game birds,
- Insect pollinators,
- Small mammals,
Tree & Plant Care
Sweet birch occurs in moist, well-drained woodland slopes. Best grown in full sun.
Spring transplant only.
Avoid pruning in spring as birches tend to 'bleed' (lose large quantities of sap).
Disease, pests and problems
Cankers, aphids, leaf miners.
Moderately susceptible to bronze birch borer.
Sensitive to soil compaction, air pollution.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to the eastern United States; often found in rocky sites.
Bark color and texture
Young trees have a smooth, shiny, red-brown with rows of white lenticels.
Mature bark brown-black and scaly.
Crushed stems smell like wintergreen.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves; 2 to 6 inches long; broadly ovate ; doubly toothed margins.
Medium green in summer turning golden yellow in fall.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
2 to 3 inch male catkins are at tips of branches and hang down when opening.
Female flowers are smaller and upright along same stem. Not ornamentally important.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit is an erect catkin with many tiny winged seeds. They ripen in fall.