How long does a river birch tree live

How Long Does A Birch Tree Live?

  •  Anna Martin
  •   Plants & Trees


Birches are the most popularly used trees for home landscaping. Do you have a birch tree in your yard? If yes, then you may agree that it adds a decent glow and beauty to your home.

Known for their magnificent and slender bark, birches belong to the genus Betula. Birch spread their cover through the entire wilderness of Alaska. Most people prefer tapping the birch trees for high sap yield.

When cultivated under optimal conditions the average lifespan of a birch tree is more than 100 years. However, there are still some factors that can badly affect the growth of birch trees and how long does a birch tree live.

Jump To

  • Where Do Birch Trees Grow?
  • How Long Do Birch Trees Live?
    1. Downy Birch Lifespan
    2. How Long Does A White Birch Tree Live?
    3. Gray Birch
    4. How Old Do Yellow Birch Trees Get?
    5. How Long Does A River Birch Tree Live?
    6. How Long Does A Silver Birch Tree Live?
  • What Is The Oldest Birch Tree?
  • How To Enhance Birch Tree Lifespan?
  • How Do You Know If A Birch Tree Is Dying?
  • FAQs


These factors like drought, diseases, lack of sun exposure, shallow root systems and more can decrease the lifespan of birch trees to around 20-30 years. So, how long does a birch tree live? It usually depends on the situation and area where it is planted.
Here, you will learn about how long these trees live and various factors that influence the life span of birch trees.

Where Do Birch Trees Grow?

As we mentioned above, birches are related to the genus Betula, which means ‘to shine’ in Latin. In traditional German, these hardwood deciduous trees are also famous as ‘Birka’.
In Canada and the U.S., you can find birches in the form of shrubs or trees. In the wilderness, birch trees need cool and moist soils to thrive well. With a shallow root system, the birches are highly sensitive to extremely hot, dry soils and even short duration of droughts.
So, when you are thinking to grow a birch tree in your yard, make sure to choose a well moist, cool, and shaded area. But, remember that birches need full to partial shade to grow their bright leaves. Read on to find out to know more about the life span of birch trees.

How Long Does A Birch Tree Live?

Most homeowners like to have birch trees due to their ornamental look. However, these trees require routine care to grow healthy and live long. Under optimal conditions like well-moist and cool soil these trees can live more than 300 years.
While its leaves are able to grow brightly in full to partial sun exposure. The ideal conditions for growing a birch increases their life expectancy. On an average, a healthy birch tree can live for around 40 to 50 years.
However, in unusual situations, many birch trees are not able to reach maturity and die. Below is a list of popular birch trees and their lifespan.

1. Downy Birch Lifespan

With white-grey bark, downy birch is a beautiful medium-sized tree. Its various lenticular and horizontal characteristics make it perfect for landscaping. In spring it grows lovely flowers with extended fruits. Further, it has attractive triangle-shaped leaves.
These birch trees are native to Greenland and Iceland. Besides this, the trees also spread their cover in most regions of Asia and Northern Europe. They require badly drained and wet soil for optimum growth. These trees have great commercial worth since they are often used for the construction of plywood objects including indoor furniture.
Under perfect conditions, a downy birch tree can live for 80 to 100 years and sometimes for around 200 years.

2. White Birch Tree Lifespan

The white birch tree (Betula papyrafera) is most commonly known as silver birch and paper birch. The leaves of this tree are a little triangular in shape. Its bark is reddish brown and white that easily peels off. Because of their ornamental look, these species are highly used for residential landscaping.
Most people also keep wondering ‘how long does a white birch tree live?’. In forests, the white birch tree can thrive for about 80 to 140 years. However, when it comes to the lifespan of white birch for your yard, the trees may thrive for a shorter lifespan around 30 to 40 years.
These trees are usually located in the northern region of North America. Their sap is highly useful to prepare beer, birch syrup and wine.

3. Gray Birch

With a triangle-shaped and grayish bark, this birch grows very quickly. But the average lifespan of a birch tree (gray birch) is 50 years. It thrives nicely in drained soil and occasionally it needs sandy soil.
Most commonly it is located in regions of North America. It bears sweet fruit that usually matures in fall. This birch has many commercial uses including high-quality plywood and the making of furniture.

4. How Old Do Yellow Birch Trees Get?

How long does a birch tree live if it’s a yellow birch? These are beautiful and large-sized trees with striking color. In autumn, its beautiful leaves turn golden yellow. At the same time, its glossy bark starts to peel off during fall and get brilliant texture.
In the beginning of the growing period, its birch is deep yellow-brown in color. But as the tree reaches the age of maturity  it turns from  grayish silver to dark red-brown.
In spring, this birch develops small-sized yellow blossoms that turn into beautiful catkins. These can survive for a long period of time. When it comes to yellow birch, typically, the average life span of a birch tree is 150 years in the wilderness, while some of its species can grow for more than 300 years.

5. River Birch

How long does a river birch tree live? The answer to this common question is between 55 and 75 years. With alternate and ovate-shaped bright leaves river birch forms a perfect option for home landscaping.


The tree can be found in medium to large sizes and grows into several trunks. While growing it can reach a height of about 25 to 30 m. These birches require well moist soil to grow best.
While it can be primarily found in floodplains and swamps of the Eastern United States.


Most people use birch sap to prepare vinegar and beer. Through the healthy life span of birch trees, these trees bear small fruits that fully grow at the end of the spring season.


6. How Long Does A Silver Birch Tree Live?

Commonly known as paper birch, these trees can grow for around 80-135 years.

What Is The Oldest Birch Tree?

As we discussed earlier the average lifespan of a birch tree depends if the surrounding environment is optimal. If the surrounding is favorable the birch trees can survive well for above three hundred years.
For example, Betula alleghaniensis, commonly known as the yellow birch can live healthy for about 300 years. While there are also sweet birch trees with smooth and white-colored bark.
The oldest known birch tree is about 360 years old as per records. With slender, irregularly shaped and less dense branches this birch has beautiful leaves.

How To Enhance Birch Tree Lifespan?

In order to improve the lifespan of birch trees there are certain ways that you will need to follow daily. It’s only then that you will be able to take care of the birch tree in your backyard.
Remember they are prone to the bronze borers and other insects. The tree is also susceptible to developing diseases. To overcome these issues it is important to have a preventive insect control program.
First of all, make sure to take care of your birch tree daily. And, remember to practice the following regularly, pruning, monitoring, watering and lastly adding fertilizer. These tips will enhance the growth of birch tree roots and improve their stress tolerating capacity.
These trees grow healthy when you feed them with the right fertilizers filled with macronutrients and micronutrients.

How Do You Know If A Birch Tree Is Dying?

To know how well your birch tree is doing, look at the branches, leaves, and bark. The worrying signs include excessive wilting of leaves without season, holes in the bark, dead branches, rotting patches with fungus growing on them, root damage, etc.

FAQs About Life Span Of Birch Trees

Q. What are the different types of Birch trees?

A. There are a large number of birch tree varieties that you can choose from in order to enhance your backyard. From weeping birch varieties to small birch varieties you can pick anyone based on your garden size.
In addition, to the white birch, downy birch, grey birch, yellow birch, sweet birch and silver birch trees, there are more species.
Some common names are Himalayan birch, European birch, Dwarf birch and so on. They are usually native species to Europe, North America and Asian regions.

Q. How fast does a birch tree grow?

A. Most birch trees usually grow at a medium to quick rate. Ultimately, they attain a height of 8m and spread 3m in 10 years, in 20 years they reach 18m in height and 4m wide. Whereas in 20 years some birches grow up to 25m tall and spread up to 10m.
You can easily distinguish mature birch trees through their conical, narrow shaped branches drooping and twigs hanging.

Q. How to care for a Birch tree?

A. In order to boost the lifespan of your cultivated birch trees, you should follow an excellent birch care routine. It can be easily done by providing suitable conditions for the birch tree in your yard as in forests. That’s right.
Make sure to grow them in cool, shaded and moist soils. While, you should also take care that they receive adequate sunlight to thrive well. The best thing is to plant your birch in a region where the leaves get good sunlight and the roots are buried in moist soil.

Q. How tall are birch trees?

A. On an average, the birch trees can reach a height between 40 feet and 70 feet, with a canopy spread from 35 to 60 ft wide. However, their maturity size still depends on the different verities of birch trees.
When it comes to home landscaping, the birch trees are often prone to health problems and usually remain smaller in height.


How to identify a Birch tree leaf?

A. Birch trees can be easily pointed out with their gray, yellow or white bark peeled off. Now, if you observe its leaves, they have serrated margins and will appear triangle/diamond shaped with pointed edges.

Q. Do birch trees fall over easily?

A. During storms, birch trees are fairly not susceptible to snapping off. But sometimes its branches can easily fall over on a very windy day. This particularly happens in cases when the birch is loaded with ice and snow all over. So, if you are looking for a taller tree to enjoy cool shade, you should probably start your search again.

Q. How do you tell if a tree needs to be cut down?

A. When in doubt whether or not to chop down that tree in your yard, look for the following signs: You have rotting roots, fungus issue, loss of branches, dying trunk, storm damage, shedding of leaves and much more.

Q. What kills river birch trees?

A. The most common problem that can kill river birch trees are the decaying of wood and rotting of roots. Root rotting is led by the armillaria fungus, which completely destroys the inner tissues of the birch like lower trunk and major roots. Also, look out for dying branches under the lower canopy areas and premature falling of small leaves.
This is all we had on how long does a birch tree live. Look out for the warning signs to enhance the life span of birch trees. Stay tuned for more wit and wisdom!

Garden Guides | Life Span of Birch Trees

birch tree forest in the mist, Kazakhstan image by Lars Lachmann from

Prized for their graceful shape and distinctive bark, birches are often used in home landscaping. Birches are so plentiful throughout the Alaskan wilderness that tapping the trees for sap is growing in popularity. Some species of birch trees can live over 300 years under optimal conditions. However, shallow root systems, drought, lack of sunlight, diseases and insect damage can all adversely affect these trees and reduce a tree's lifespan to less than 20 years.

White Birch (Betula papyrifera)

This versatile species is common in the Northeast. A strong, flexible white birch tree can live for 80 to 140 years. Sometimes referred to as Canoe Birch, Silver Birch, or Paper Birch, this tree is clearly identified by its papery white, peeling bark. The name canoe birch derived from the use of these trees by Native Americans for making and sealing watercraft. These are the species most commonly tapped for syrup as well as being the trees most susceptible to damage from birch borers.

  • Prized for their graceful shape and distinctive bark, birches are often used in home landscaping.
  • However, shallow root systems, drought, lack of sunlight, diseases and insect damage can all adversely affect these trees and reduce a tree's lifespan to less than 20 years.

Grey or Wire Birch (Betula populifolia)

Grey birch can live for 80 to 130 years. This tree's muted white bark is less paper-like than the white birch and does not peel as easily. Grey birch is distinguishable by rough black spots between the bands of white. The tree's slightly darker color makes it less susceptible than white birch to damage from birch borers.

Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

The shade tolerant yellow birch has an average lifespan of 150 years. These slow-growing trees have golden yellow shredding bark that is quite shaggy looking. Crushing the twigs or tapping for sap will release a powerful wintergreen smell and taste.

  • Grey birch can live for 80 to 130 years.
  • The tree's slightly darker color makes it less susceptible than white birch to damage from birch borers.

River Birch (Betula nigra)

River birch is also a common species in the Northeast. Soil conditions determine this tree's longevity. Acidic soils garner a 25-year lifespan versus the 15-year life expectancy of trees growing in alkaline soils. Not often damaged by birch borers, this tree has brownish-red curling bark.

Sweet birch, Black Birch, or Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)

Long-lived, sweet birch trees can survive for 250 years. This species rivals the yellow birch for wintergreen taste and smell. The sweet birch was the sole source for oil of wintergreen for many years. Another special attribute of this tree is that the wood will darken in color when exposed to air. The sweet birch's dark brown bark reduces its susceptibility to bronze birch borer.

  • River birch is also a common species in the Northeast.
  • The sweet birch's dark brown bark reduces its susceptibility to bronze birch borer.

How long does a birch live?

Birch has long been considered the most beloved tree of poets, artists and ordinary people. Poems were composed about her, songs were sung, she was painted in pictures, used in medicine. This is a beautiful tree with interesting coloring, tasty juice and medicinal pollen. Throughout her life, a person uses medicinal branches, leaves, buds, bark. It seems to people that birch lives forever.


  • Birch. Types and lifespan
  • Medical applications
  • Grow your own birch


Types and life expectancy

There are about 120 species of birch, 64 species are found in the forests of Russia. The average life expectancy of a birch is about a hundred years and depends on the living conditions. In principle, this is an unpretentious tree that can live well in any soil. The main thing is that the soil is moist, since the birch loves water and consumes up to 250 liters per day.

In Russian forests, birch trees live no more than 120 years, with the exception of iron birch, whose life expectancy is almost 400 years.

Even 100 years ago birch was a rarer tree than it is today. It grew mainly along river banks and in forests where fallen coniferous trees had fallen. So she grew up in different places of the taiga. For more than 150 years, birch did not stay in one place.

Birch also has permanent habitats. On the border of the forest near the Arctic Circle grows winding birch, in the Pamirs - Pamir birch with pink bark, in the Caucasus - Radde birch, also with pink bark, in Transbaikalia - black birch with shaggy bark.

Stone birch grows in the Far East. Its age is 3-4 times more than white birch and is 500 years old. Its trunk is more like an apple tree, the only difference is in the bark. The color of the bark does not look like either a birch or an apple tree. This is a pink-gray bark that lags behind the tree itself and hangs down in long strips.

Warty birch or drooping birch is widespread. It grows quite quickly, starting at the age of 10, it grows by 75-90 cm per year and lives 50-60 years.

Use in medicine

In folk medicine, everything that birch can give is used. Its juice is an excellent immunostimulating, cleansing and vitamin remedy. Bath brooms are made from branches and leaves, which, under the influence of hot air in the bath, release essential healing oils that have a beneficial effect on the condition of the skin and the whole human body.

Birch buds are good for many diseases, because they contain essential oils, tannins, resins, grape sugar, flavonoids and ascorbic acid. It is a good antiseptic and expectorant, which is used to treat diseases of the respiratory system. In addition, they are used in the form of lotions or dressings for various soft tissue wounds.

Birch sap is recommended for poisoning and cancer. It perfectly stimulates the metabolism, has a diuretic and antihelminthic effect.

Birch leaves have a bactericidal effect, help to cope with headaches, rheumatism, disorders of the nervous system. Decoctions and infusions are used in the treatment of the upper respiratory tract, arthritis, in gynecology and dermatovenereology.

These are far from all diseases treated by birch.

Grow a birch on your own

Any gardener dreams of having a long-lived birch on his plot. Growing it is easy. Seedlings can be purchased ready-made, it is desirable that they be with an earthen clod on the roots.

Dig a deep enough hole, add a mixture of garden soil, humus, sand and peat.

If planting takes place in the spring, you can add a complex fertilizer, in the fall - phosphorus-potassium in the amount of 200 grams. The distance between seedlings should be at least 4 meters, as the birch root system is actively developing and requires a lot of space.

You can grow birch from seeds that are sown in shallow holes and covered with a layer of humus. Before planting, they must be kept in the cold for a month, then dried at room temperature. Seeds are sown at the beginning of winter in already frozen soil or in early spring, immediately after the snow melts.

When growing this healing tree, it is important to pay attention to the control of weeds that can interfere with the development of the plant. Weed the soil regularly, but no deeper than 3 cm, so as not to damage the roots. In order to prevent fungi and various pests, the crown of the tree must be sprayed every year with fungicides and insecticidal preparations.

To form a beautiful shape of the tree, it is recommended to prune the branches annually. Do this in early spring before the birch sap begins to stand out.

Having grown a birch on your site, you will be able to enjoy its healing properties throughout your life. It will become an indispensable assistant in the fight against many diseases. Due to its impressive life span, birch will be useful for more than one generation.

Category:Trees | birch


Birch - description and characteristics.

These trees, with the exception of some dwarf species, reach 45 meters in height, and the birch trunk can reach 1.5 meters in girth. Young birch branches are usually painted reddish-brown and covered with small "warts". The buds on the branches are alternately arranged and covered with sticky scales. Small bright green leaves with pronounced veins have the shape of an equilateral triangle with two rounded corners, they are serrated along the edges. In spring, young birch leaves are usually sticky.

Birch buds

Birch bark covering the trunk may be white, yellowish, pink or brown. Some species are characterized by brown and gray color of the trunk. The upper part of the bark, birch bark, easily peels off from the trunk. Old trees below are covered with rough dark bark with deep cracks.

The root system of birch is branched, superficial, with numerous thin shoots or deep, with roots going obliquely deep. It depends on the conditions in which the tree grows. In the first years of life, it grows slowly, after 3-4 years the growth rate increases.

How long does a birch live?

The birch tree is a typical representative of dioecious plants pollinated by the wind. It has both female and male "earrings", which immediately fall off after pollination. The average lifespan of these trees ranges from 100 to 300 years, although there have been specimens that have exceeded the 400-year mark.

Names and types of birches.

Albae - includes birch with white and close to this shade of birch bark.
Costata - distinguished by a ribbed trunk and rough leaves due to the veins protruding from below.
Acuminatae - large-leaved trees, grow in subtropical conditions.
Nanae - includes all small birches with small leaves.
Several types of birches are described below:

Downy (pubescent) birch (lat. Betula pubescens)

A tree 15–25 m high has a trunk diameter of up to 80 cm. Young trees, which are often confused with alder, have red-brown bark, over time, acquiring a snow-white color. The crown of a young birch is narrow, slender, becoming wide and sprawling with age, with branches directed upwards. Downy birch grows in Siberian forests, in the European part of Russia, in Western Europe and in the Caucasus. The variety is winter-hardy, shade-tolerant, does not particularly need the sun. Prefers well-moistened soils, feels great in wetlands.

Downy birch (pubescent)

Hanging birch (warty) (lat. Betula pendula)

The most common type of birch, growing up to 25-30 m and having a trunk diameter of 75-80 cm. Young trees have brown bark that turns white by the age of 10. The lower part of the trunks of old trees turns black and becomes covered with deep cracks. The branches of the birch are covered with a scattering of many resinous formations resembling warts, hence the popular name of the species is the warty birch. The branches of young growth characteristically hang down, which is why the birch is often called hanging. It grows throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia. The most extensive range from the Ural Mountains to Kazakhstan. The variety is frost-resistant, easily tolerates drought, but is demanding of the sun.

Hanging birch (warty)

Erman birch (stone) (lat. Betula ermanii)

Stone birch got its official name in honor of the German physicist and traveler Georg Adolf Erman. Among birch trees, it is considered a long-liver; individual trees can live up to 400 years. With a relatively low growth of 12-15 m, the Erman birch has a diameter of a usually curved trunk up to 90 cm. The bark is brown or dark gray, flaky, covered with deep cracks with age. The branches are erect, warty and pubescent in young trees, forming a very beautiful, wide, translucent crown. The species is cold-resistant, shade-tolerant, unpretentious, grows well on rocky lands. Excess moisture does not tolerate well, on swampy soils it is replaced by downy birch. It grows in Buryatia, Yakutia, the Far East, China, Japan and Korea.

Erman's birch (stone)

Cherry birch (strong, sweet) (lat. Betula lenta)

Tree of medium size, 20-25 m high, trunk diameter up to 60 cm. set round, transparent, with drooping branches. Cherry birch is characterized by uneven, dark brown, almost cherry bark, covered with pronounced cracks. The bark of young trees has a spicy, fragrant smell. This birch grows quickly, preferring well-drained, light and moist soils, and is considered a long-liver. Possessing average winter hardiness, it often freezes out in severe winters. Due to the increased demands on growing conditions, it never becomes a dominant plant. Cherry birch is native to North America, from Maine to the southern slopes of the Appalachians. It grows well in the Baltic countries, Belarus, is found in the Central Black Earth region of Russia.

Cherry birch (viscous, sweet)

Black birch (river) (lat. Betula nigra)

The most heat-loving species of birch up to 30 m high and with a trunk diameter of more than 1 m. The openwork crown of wild trees is formed by oval or egg-shaped leaves, dark green above and whitish or gray below. The bark of the trees can be rough, gray or brown, and sometimes there are smooth and even birch trees with a creamy pink bark that peels off like paper. A heat-loving species of birch, widespread in the United States from New Hampshire to Texas and Florida.

Black birch (river)

Dwarf birch (small, dwarf) (lat. Betula nana)

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This the birch species grows in the tundra, in the highlands, and is found on the plains. Resembles a shrub with strong branching or is a low tree, the trunk of which is surrounded by warty branches. Birch bark dark brown, young shoots densely pubescent. For growth, it prefers acidic or slightly acidic soil, perfectly tolerates heavy, waterlogged soils.

Dwarf birch (small, dwarf)

Karelian birch (lat. Betula carelica)

This type of birch can reach a decent height of 5-8 m, but often has the form of a small bush. The trunk of a karelka birch is often covered with numerous irregularities (tubercles or swellings), and is distinguished by an unusual pattern resembling marble veins. The wood of the Karelian birch is highly valued in the exclusive furniture industry, cabinet makers make luxurious handicrafts from it.

Karelian birch

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Where does birch grow?
Birch is a typical "inhabitant" of the Northern Hemisphere. Its range stretches from hot subtropics to areas with a very harsh climate. In central Russia and in areas with moderate climatic conditions, these trees form light forests.

The tree is undemanding to the soil. It is suitable for sandy and loamy soils, as well as chernozems or depleted lands. Birch is very fond of moisture, so it can be found along the sea and river banks, as well as in swampy areas. Dwarf birches grow even in permafrost and dry rocky soil.

How to grow a birch?

Those who decide to plant a birch tree in their backyard need to know that it greatly dries up the soil and depresses the surrounding plants. Therefore, it is not recommended to plant it next to fruit shrubs and trees. A young seedling needs periodic watering and protection from strong winds, so it will be a good idea to tie it to a strong peg in the first six months of life.

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