Fox Valley River Birch
Last November I wrote of the discovery of an unusual sugar maple seedling which had value for cultivation and became a horticultural variety when it was patented in 1998. This exceptional sugar maple variety, with its narrow upright shape and a compact growth habit, is known in the trade as ‘Apollo Sugar Maple’. June’s Plant of the Month, the ‘Fox Valley River Birch’ has a similar history.
A chance seedling River birch (Betula nigra) was discovered in the 1970s and cultivated by cloning. This unusual River birch has a dwarf, compact, dense habit, reaching 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide. River birch commonly grows 40 to 70 feet tall and 40 to 60 feet wide. This atypical birch was cultivated under the name Betula nigra “minor” and is typically single-stemmed with one or more large branches arising near the ground and densely branched within.
Betula nigra “minor” was evaluated by the Chicago Botanic Garden from 1987 to 1991 at three different locations and “proved to be a promising landscape plant”. Patented in 1991 and given the name ‘Fox Valley River Birch’ this new horticultural variety is appropriate for small scale sites where large size trees of the species is unsuitable. It can be used as a specimen plant, as a hedge or in a shrub border. The exfoliating bark and dense branching habit are exceptional features in the winter landscape.
This highly ornamental tree grows well on moisture retentive soils and is resistant to the bronze birch borer.