by Crystal Cockman
July 20, 2017
A friend of mine sent me a picture of the beautiful river birch she has on her property near Troy a while back. Another friend is proud of her sycamore tree in her front yard, which sold her on the house where she lives currently. This got me to thinking about the trees in our forests in the eastern United States that possess exfoliating bark. The term exfoliating or peeling bark describes the natural process and condition of the bark peeling away from a tree trunk.
River birch (Betula nigra) is a deciduous tree that is native to the eastern United States, north to Minnesota and west to Kansas and south to Florida. They are restricted to stream banks and other moist places. Trees can grow up to 70 feet tall and 30 inches in diameter. They are one of the few heat-tolerant birches in a family of mostly cold-weather trees.
The bark of the river birch is very distinctive – gray-brown to pinkish brown to ivory, exfoliating in curly papery sheets. Leaves are alternate, simple, and oval shaped with serrated edges. Fruits mature in late spring, making it a valuable tree for wildlife. White-tailed deer browse the twigs, buds and foliage, and grouse, turkeys, small birds and rodents eat the seeds. [Read more…]