Betula lenta

Sweet Birch, Black Birch




  • native to eastern North America; also found in cooler areas in the mountains of Georgia and the Southwest
  • zone 3

Habit and Form

  • medium shade tree
  • deciduous
  • pyramidal and dense when young, developing a broad, round, spreading crown when mature
  • 40' to 55' in the landscape; 70' to 80' tall in the wild
  • medium texture

Summer Foliage

  • alternate, simple leaves, 2.5" to 6" long by 1-1.5" to 3-3.5" wide
  • broad, ovate leaves with cordate base
  • shiny green above, paler below

Autumn Foliage

  • reliable, uniform golden yellow color
  • one of the best of the commonly grown birches


  • blooms in April
  • monoecious: male catkins 2" to 3" long in bloom, in groups of 4(3-8); female catkins 1"


  • tiny winged nutlets (nearly 1 million per pound)


  • young bark reddish-brown to black, with large horizontal lenticels; older bark black, plate-like


  • best on deep, rich, moist, acidic soils, but can also be found on rocky, drier sites and heavy soil
  • resistant to bronze birch borer
  • best in full sun; tolerates light shade

Landscape Use

  • shade tree for parks, naturalized areas, other large sites


  • canker; can have a number of other insect and disease problems common to birch, most not problematic
  • not a white-barked birch

ID Features

  • bruised twigs have wintergreen odor; but taste sweet (B. alleghaniensis tastes bitter)
  • slender catkins, usually in 4's (B. alleghaniensis catkins are larger and usually in groups of 5 or more)
  • bark reddish-brown when young (B. alleghaniensis has yellow-brown bark)
  • older bark black, not exfoliating like B. alleghaniensis
  • twigs glabrous (B. alleghaniensis slightly pubescent)


  • by seed


  • None

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

The digital materials (images and text) available from the UConn Plant Database are protected by copyright. Public use via the Internet for non-profit and educational purposes is permitted. Use of the materials for profit is prohibited.

Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.