Betula nigra is a tree to 30 m tall (smaller in NYC); bark orange-brown, peeling, shaggy, old bark rough, scaling, twigs hairy.
Leaves egg-shaped, to 8 cm long, sharply double toothed near tip, entire near base, stalk fuzzy.
Flowers very small, in catkins, wind pollinated; blooms March-April.
Fruit dry, winged nuts, wind dispersed. Seeds, buds and catkins eaten by many birds and mammals (Martin et al. 1951).
Wetland status: FACW.
Frequency in New York City: Infrequent.
Origin: Native. Southern NYS is the northern limit for natural populations.
Habitat: Swamp forest edges, flood plains. Intolerant of shade, salt. Moderately flood tolerant. Tolerates soil pH 3-6.5 (USDA, NRCS 2010). Tolerant of drought, flooding or saturated soil up to 25% of growing season. Intolerant of shade, index 2-4. Intolerant of salt (Hightshoe 1988).
Notes: Twigs eaten by deer (Martin et al. 1951). Sometimes infected by the anthracnose Gloeosporium betulinum (syn. Discula betulina, Deuteromycotina, Coelomycetes), which kills leaves. The symptoms of this disease are brown patches surrounded by yellow tissue on leaves. (Burns and Honkala 1990; Sinclair et al. 1987).