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For Your Garden - January 2012

Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year. Consider adding a few native plant species to your garden soon!

river birch (Betula nigra)

River birch grows naturally throughout much of Illinois, although it is more common in the southern half of the state. It grows along streams and in floodplain forests. This tree may reach 75 feet in height. Male and female flowers are present on the same tree, with flowering occurring in April and May. The flowers are small, with the male flowers in drooping clusters, and the female flowers in conelike structures. The fruits produced are winged, tiny, hairy nuts. The simple leaves are arranged alternately on the stem, and a leaf may be up to three inches long. The leaves are doubly toothed along the edge. The bark is red-brown. It shreds and peels from the trunk, providing an interesting look that can enliven your garden.

Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

Illinois Range

Native Plant Information

For more information about Illinois native plants, visit our Native Habitat Descriptions, Requirements, and Plant Lists page. The following publications are available from the IDNR on our publications page.


​Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fagles
Family: Betulaceae

Illinois Status: common, native