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Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Betula occidentalis Hook.
Mountain birch, Water birch
Synonym(s): Betula beeniana, Betula fontinalis, Betula occidentalis var. inopina, Betula papyrifera ssp. occidentalis, Betula papyrifera var. occidentalis
USDA Symbol: BEOC2
Water birch or mountain birch is a 20-30 ft., multi-trunked tree with shiny, reddish-brown bark. Its delicate, graceful appearance is created by slender, spreading, pendulous branches. Shrub or small tree with rounded crown of spreading and drooping branches, usually forming clumps and often in thickets. The red color of the branches and twigs creates the same winter effect as red-twigged dogwoods. The small, deciduous leaves are bright green above and yellow-green beneath becoming bright yellow in fall.
This uncommon but widespread species is the only native birch in the Southwest and the southern Rocky Mountains. Sheep and goats browse the foliage.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf:
Green Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr
, WY Canada: AB
, YT Native Distribution: AK,
e. of the Cascades to CA,
e. to s. Man., the Dakotas & n. NM Native Habitat:
Wooded, mt. ravines; stream banks; bottomlands
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
High Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Moist CaCO3 Tolerance:
Low Soil Description:
Moist soils. Conditions Comments:
Do not prune until summer when the sap
has stopped flowing. Susceptible to borers, aphids, and other problems when grown in dry soil. Does not cast heavy shade, permitting underplanting.
PropagationDescription: Sow seed as soon as ripe. Germination is facilitated by exposure to light; never plant too deeply.
Seed Collection: Birch seed is collected by picking the catkins while they are still green enough to hold together. They shatter easily and should be put directly into bags.
Seed Treatment: One month cold stratification compensates for light treatment.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CANative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Record Last Modified: 2007-12-23
Research By: TWC Staff