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TREES & plants

Yellow birch

Yellow birch's shiny, dark bark.

Yellow birch, an Illinois native, has a silvery bronze bark that peels into small strips. Fall color is yellow. This species shows some resistance to bronze birch borer. It is also known as Betula lutea.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

Botanical name: 
Betula alleghaniensis
All Common Names: 
yellow birch
Family (English): 
Birch
Family (Botanic): 
Betulaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
60-75 feet
Mature Width: 
60-75 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Prefers
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Fall color, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall, 
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • No
Wildlife: 
  • Game birds, 
  • Insect pollinators, 
  • Small mammals, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Grows well over a range of soil pH from acid to alkaline.
Performs best in areas where summers are cool.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots and cankers can occur.
Birch leaf miners and birch skeletonizer are insects that can attack this tree.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Shows some resistance to the bronze birch borer.
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10
This species is native to more northern climates (the Chicago region is in the southern edge of this tree's range in the Midwest).
It is often found in moist sites and on cool slopes.

Bark color and texture 

This birch species has a darker bark than many others. 
The bark is reddish brown to bronze and marked with long, horizontal lenticels.  Bark is slightly peeling.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Leaves are simple and alternate, with an ovate shape.
Each leaf is 3 to 5 inches long, with a doubly-toothed margin.
Fall color is yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Separate male and female flowers on the same tree (monoecious).
Male flowers are tiny and held in hanging catkins; female flowers held in upright catkins.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits are small winged seeds packed together into an upright structure that will shatter in winter.

Betula alleghaniensis or Yellow birch