Fall Foliage of River Birch Trees
River birch trees (Betula nigra) can be grown in zones 4-9 to provide the landscape with fall foliage. Native to the Eastern U.S., they will reach a height of 40-70 feet with a spread of 25-35 feet. These specimens are full-sun trees, but they will also tolerate partial shade.
This tree’s exfoliating bark is as attractive as its fall foliage. As you can see from the picture (click "More Images"), they shed their bark, as do the paper birches (see below), but their bark does not possess the white color of the latter. Fall foliage color is yellow. River birch trees tolerate the summer heat better than paper birch trees.
Fall Foliage of Paper Birch TreesAnother birch tree grown as much for its exfoliating bark as for its fall foliage is the paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Its fall foliage color is yellow. The chalky bark, or “paper” is more striking than that of the river birch trees, sometimes attaining to almost a pure white. The bark of this tree is, of course, famous for another reason, too: namely, as the material for birch-bark canoes. The fall foliage of paper birch trees is similar to that of gray birch trees (Betula populifolia Marsh.), as you can see in the photo gallery (above, right). But gray birch trees grow in clumps and their bark is not especially attractive.
Grow this tree if you live in Canada or in the northern tier of U.S. states (zones 2-6). Paper birches are native to this region, and prefer its cool temperatures. Height and spread similar to that of river birch trees. Plant in full sun to partial shade.
Fall Foliage of Weeping Birch Trees
Another “white” birch is Young’s weeping birch (Betula pendula ‘Youngii’), a 6’-12’ dwarf variety that can be grown in zones 3-9. In addition to its white bark and yellow fall foliage, the form of this tree provides landscaping interest. As suggested by its name, the branches of this birch tree droop, or “weep” down towards the ground. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Its parent, Betula pendula, is the European white birch.
Fall Foliage of Yellow Birch Trees
Another of the attractive non-white birch trees is the yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). A 60’-80’ tall tree (spread of about 30’) with yellow fall foliage, yellow birch trees derive their common name not from their foliage, but from their exfoliating bark, which sheds like that of the paper and river birch trees mentioned above. Speaking more accurately, I would describe the bark as golden. Yellow birches should be grown in full sun to partial shade, in zones 4-7.
More on Fall Foliage Trees:
Aspen Trees, Quaking
Autumn Blaze Maples
Japanese Maple Trees
Shagbark Hickory Trees
Ginkgo Biloba Trees
Sunburst Honey Locusts