Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch, Black Birch

Sweet Birch, Cherry Birch, Black Birch

Betula lenta

Full sun to light shade; medium to moderately dry moisture level; prefers moderately fine sandy loams, silt loams and silts; strongly to moderately acid pH.

40-50 feet height by 35-45 feet spread; yellow-brown, slender pencil-like catkins (flowers) in late spring; fruit is a small, winged nutlet in a ¾” – 1 1/3” long, cone-like structure in summer.

Growth Rate: Fast in the seedling stage and medium with age

Maintenance: Avoid pruning in late winter and spring to avoid excessive bleeding of sap. Fall, just after leaf drop, is best time to prune. Suffers from frequent disease and insect problems. Older trees often suffer from nectria canker, a widespread fungus, which produces a bulls-eye shaped wound on the trunk. Such wounds can eventually become quite large and seriously weaken the tree to the point that drought or insects will kill it off.

Propagation: Moderately easy from seed; difficult from cuttings.

Native Region: East Tennessee

This species reaches its best development in deep, rich, moist, slightly acid soil. It is native to rich forests and rocky outcrops. Fall leaf color is a glowing shade of bright yellow. Bark is a shining reddish brown color when young. On older trees, bark becomes a dull, purplish gray and peels off in thick, rectangular plates. Not widely grown as a landscape tree.

Very high wildlife value for songbirds and mammals. Larval host to many species of moths and butterflies, including the Cecropia moth and the Viceroy, White Admiral and Mourning Cloak butterflies. Seeds provide food for many species of overwintering birds.

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