There are a few trees that most people can readily identify. Birch trees are one, no doubt about it. The graceful, multi-trunk form and light, peeling bark are pretty much iconic. Here in Virginia, the birches that do really well are the river birch (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’).
SIngle trunk river birches can be sourced, but the vast majority sold are multi-trunked. They’re fairly fast growing, reaching anywhere from 40 to 70 feet tall and 40ish feet across. I definitely prefer to plant them in groups of three or more, because one river birch by itself just looks sad and lonely.
When deciding where to plant a river birch, be sure to give it plenty of room. They’re not a great tree to put right up against a patio or sidewalk because the roots will eventually heave the pavement. They also drop a lot of small branches, so it’s not a great tree for around a pool.
As you could guess from the river birch part of the name, they can tolerate wet areas. We use them in conjunction with rain gardens and swales, and they make them look like natural areas.