A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants
Betula alleghaniensis (B. lutea)
Full sun to shade; moderately wet to medium moisture level; grows best on moderately coarse sandy loams but is common on moderately fine clay and sandy clay loams; strongly acid to alkaline pH.
50-70 feet height by 35-50 feet spread; 1 to 1 ½ inch drooping pencil-like, greenish catkins (flowers) in late spring; fruit is a small, winged nutlet in a papery, brown, cone-like structure, 1 inch long, in summer.
Growth Rate: Medium
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 insect and disease problems. Pests include bronze birch borer and birch leaf miner. A tree stressed by other problems is more likely to get bronze birch borer.
Propagation: Moderately easy from seed; difficult from cuttings.
Native Region: Middle and East Tennessee
This species is the primary timber birch and is used for veneer and furniture. It is a fine tree for the larger landscape. Bark of older trees is a bronzy golden color, peeling off in thin curling sheets and giving the tree a shaggy appearance from a distance. Sap has a wintergreen smell. Prefers moist, cool soils and cool summer temperatures. Does not perform well in hot, dry climates. It is abundant along the Blue Ridge Parkway and on the higher peaks of Tennessee.
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.