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European white birch is very susceptible to bronze birch borer (Agrilus anxius). It was once used extensively in landscapes, but its high susceptibility to the bronze birch borer has limited its use in more recent years. This species is not recommended for planting anywhere in the Midwest and usually requires removal due to its susceptibility to the borer.

It is native to northern Asia and Europe, but was introduced to the United States as an ornamental tree. As an alternative, river birch (Betula nigra) is a good option. Before purchasing or planting, be sure to check for any local or state guidelines on this species, and ensure that this plant is suitable for its habitat by checking its attributes at or

  • Family (English) Birch
  • Family (botanic) Betulaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-50 feet
  • Mature width 20-35 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Oval, Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Has cultivars Yes

More Information

Highly Susceptible to the Following Diseases and Pests

Bronze birch borer

Native Geographic Location and Habitat

This tree is native to Europe and northern Asia.

Bark Color and Texture

This species has white bark that peels slightly. On older trees, the trunk becomes black.

Leaf or Needle arrangement, Size, Shape, and Texture

Simple, alternate leaves grow 1 to 3 inches long. Dark green leaves are rhomboid in shape. Leaf margins are double serrated, leaf tip is long and pointed (acuminate), and fall color is yellow to yellow-green.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are inconspicuous. Male flowers are held in cylindrical catkins. Female flowers are also in a cylindrical structure, but much smaller. Male and female flowers appear on the same tree.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruits are small, winged nutlets held in pendulous catkins.

Care Knowledge

Plant Care

Avoid pruning in spring as birches are bleeders and will lose large quantities of sap.

List of Pests, Diseases, and Tolerances

Use of this tree is limited by its susceptibility to bronze birch borer.


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