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Yellow birch, an Illinois native, has a silvery bronze bark that peels into small strips. Fall color is yellow. This species shows some resistance to bronze birch borer. It is also known as Betula lutea. 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
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 60-75 feet
  • Mature width 60-75 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Game birds, Insect pollinators, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Yellow birch is native to more northern climates. The Chicago region is in the southern edge of this tree’s range in the Midwest. It is often found in moist sites and on cool slopes. C-Value: 10  

Bark color and texture: 

This birch species has a darker bark than many others. The bark is reddish brown to bronze and marked with long, horizontal lenticels and is slightly peeling.

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

Leaves are simple and alternate, with an ovate shape. Each leaf is 3 to 5 inches long, with a doubly-toothed margin. Fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Separate male and female flowers form on the same tree (monoecious). Male flowers are tiny and held in hanging catkins, while female flowers are held in upright catkins.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Fruits are small, winged seeds packed together into an upright structure that will shatter in winter.

Plant care:

Yellow birch grows well over a range of soil pH from acid to alkaline and performs best in areas where summers are cool.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Leaf spots and cankers can occur. Birch leaf miners and birch skeletonizer are insects that can attack this tree. Shows some resistance to the bronze birch borer and is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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