Betula alleghaniensis
Common Name: yellow birch 
Type: Tree
Family: Betulaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 60.00 to 75.00 feet
Spread: 60.00 to 75.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Female catkins green, male catkins mature from green to purple-yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Naturalize
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Other: Winter Interest


Best grown in evenly moist to wet, rich, acidic, well-draining loams in full sun to part shade. Short-lived in dry or hot summer climates. Propagate with seed or semi-hardwood cuttings. Hardy in Zones 3-7.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Betula alleghaniensis, commonly called yellow birch, is a large, long-lived, deciduous tree native to to cool, rich forests, wooded streambanks and swamps in eastern North America. Its range extends from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick west through the Great Lakes region to Minnesota, and south through the southern Appalachians. It is most common in the northern portions of its range and is only found sporadically in the southern United States at higher elevations, on north facing slopes, and in cool, moist gorges. Mature trees will reach 60-75' tall with a similarly wide, irregularly rounded to spreading canopy. Some wild specimens will occasionally reach up to 100' tall. The bark is shiny and yellow-grey in color with thin, exfoliating strips and dark, horizontal lenticles. Mature trunks develop scale-like, grooved plates. The twigs have a slight wintergreen scent when crushed. The foliage is narrowly ovate with doubly serrated margins and will reach 2.5-4" long and 1.25-2" wide. In fall the leaves turn bright golden yellow. Light green, 2" long male catkins are formed in late summer at the ends of the twigs in clusters of 2-6. In spring they elongate to 3-4", turn purple-yellow, and become pendulous while shedding pollen. The solitary, green, 1" long, oval-shaped, upright female catkins emerge near the ends of the branches in spring. The fruit is a small, light brown, winged nutlet that are dispersed in fall and winter. The seeds are an important food source for small mammals including squirrels and mice, game birds including ruffed grouse and turkeys, and songbirds including chickadees, finches, and juncos. The wind-dispersed seeds produce an abundance of seedlings which are browsed by deer, moose, and rabbits. The leaves are a larval food source for many species of butterflies and caterpillars. Synonymous with Betula lutea.

Genus name is the Latin name for birch.

The specific epithet alleghaniensis refers to the native range of this species which includes the Allegheny Mountains, part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range.

The common name yellow birch refers to the color of the bark of this species.


The shallow root system of this species makes it susceptible to windthrow if grown in thin, poorly drained soils. Like other birches, yellow birch is susceptible to a wide array of pathogenic fungi and bacteria which will invade wood with mechanical injuries or frost cracking. The bronze birch borer is the most serious insect pest. Heavy feeding by birch skeletonizer, tent caterpillars, gypsy moths caterpillars, and dusky birch sawfly larvae can defoliate young trees and saplings. Two or three successive growing seasons with defoliation can lead to death.


Suitable for woodland gardens, as a shade tree in a lawn or pollinator garden, or allowed to naturalize on moist, wooded slopes. Valuable lumber tree. The wood is used to make furniture, cabinets, veneers, and tool handles among other products. Mature trees can be tapped and the sap can be boiled down to produce a sweet syrup similar to maple syrup.