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Plant of the Week: Birches for Winter Interest

Plant of the Week! Birches are a classic choice for winter landscape interest, especially Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch) and B. nigra, River Birch. Both have very attractive bark: Paper Birch has matte white bark with dark lenticels and V shaped markings, and River Birch bark exfoliates in shades of cream, grey, white, and cinnamon. Unlike Paper Birch, River Birch is resistant to the Bronze Birch Borer, which weakens and eventually kills affected trees. Both trees are pioneer species, growing on and preparing a new environment for later successional trees. As such, they do not tolerate shade. Neither species tolerates drought; they should be grown in moist, humusy soil topped with organic mulch. Paper Birch can be tapped like Sugar Maple, and its sap is used for beverages and syrup. River Birch is typically multi-stemmed and has many surface roots, making it a good choice for erosion control. Both birches serve as a food source for a range of mammals, birds, and insects.
 
Special thanks to Holly Miller Kadow for the Paper Birch photo!

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