Content Detail

Bog birch is a medium-sized, short-lived, clump-forming shrub for wet habitats. It is common in the upper Midwest, although it may be difficult to find in the nursery trade.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Birch
  • Family (botanic) Betulaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Mounded, Multi-stemmed, Open, Thicket-forming, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 10. Bog birch is found in wet, swampy marshes and bogs in the northern Midwest.

Bark color and texture:

Young bark is thin and reddish-brown with warty lenticels. Older bark becomes dark gray and peels with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Bog birch has alternate, fleshy, 1 1/2 to 2 inch oval to ovate leaves, with coarsely toothed margins. Leaves are medium green that turn yellow in the fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Cylindrical female catkins are reddish color, while male catkins form along the same stems and are yellow.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The winged seeds are upright and cone-like.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Numerous birds favor bog birch seeds in late fall.

Plant care:

Bog birch is a colony-forming shrub of bogs and lake borders. It must be planted in moist to wet areas with full sun. This shrub prefers alkaline soil, but it will tolerate some acidity. It has a shallow, fibrous root system that makes bog birch difficult to transplant. This shrub is relatively short-lived and difficult to find in nurseries.

List of pests and diseases:

Occasional leaf spots, cankers, rust, mildew, birch leaf miner, aphids, and bronze birch borer are problems with this shrub.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift