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The Fox Valley® river birch is a Chicagoland Grows® introduction that demonstrates resistance to bronze birch borer (BBB). It is a dense, compact tree with glossy, green leaves and exfoliating bark.

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

  • Family (English) Birch
  • Family (botanic) Betulaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Compact tree (10-15 feet)
  • Mature height 8-10 feet
  • Mature width 8-10 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Broad, Pyramidal, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Browsers, Game birds, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars NA

Native geographic location and habitat:  

This is a cultivated variety of a native species.

Bark color and texture:  

Bark is attractive, cinnamon-colored, and peeling.

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

Leaves are simple, alternate, 2 to 3 inches long, and  triangular or wedge-shaped with doubly serrated tooth margins. They are dark green with lighter undersides, turning yellow in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Male flowers are long, slender catkins near the tips of stems and female flowers stand upright along the same twig. They are considered inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Cone-like with clusters of winged seeds, which ripen in spring.

Plant care:

This cultivar tolerates some dryness, but does not like hot, dry summers. Plants benefit from a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch and supplemental water in dry periods. Birches are considered “bleeders,” so avoid pruning in late spring before leaves emerge.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

This river birch can develop iron chlorosis in high pH soil and is susceptible to aphids and leaf spots, but is resistant to bronze birch borer and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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