This birch is so named because of its natural association or occurrence near montane streams, lakes and moist glens. Water birch is a deciduous large shrub with a wide-spreading habit. It's native to the cooler mid-elevations of western North America, sporadically from central Alaska to Hudson Bay south to California and Arizona. The smooth bark is reddish brown to dark bronze with light colored lenticel dots. With age the bark is drab bleached gray.
The satin-glossy green leaves are broad ovals, sometimes resembling rhombuses. Leaf edges are sharply toothed, even doubly toothed. In mid- to late spring, flowering occurs. Male catkins are long, while the female catkins are less showy and rounded. Wind pollination results in production of winged nutlets by the female flowers. When they ripen in late summer, the catkins shatter to release seeds. Fall foliage color ranges from light to medium yellow.
Grow water birch in abundant sunshine in average to wet soils. Although normally associated with neutral to alkaline soils, it tolerates acidity. Loam and sandy soils that are moist to seasonally flooded work especially well. Use water birch to create a natural buffer or river bank stabilizer. Although not magnificent as a specimen, the fall foliage and bark makes it a worthy addition to a mixed shrub border. (info source: Learn2Grow.com)
Genus - Betula
Species - Fontinalis
Variety - Occidentalis
Common name - Water Birch
Pre-Treatment - Required
Hardiness zones - 4 - 7
Height - 12'-20' / 4 - 6(15) m
Spread - 15'-30' / 4 - 9(15) m
Plant type - Shrub
Vegetation type - Deciduous
Exposure - Full Sun, Partial Shade
Growth rate - Medium
Soil PH - Neutral, alkaline
Soil type - Clay, Loam, Sand, Well Drained
Water requirements - Average Water
Landscape uses - Screening / Wind Break, Shade Trees
Bloom season - Early Spring
Leaf / Flower color - Green / Light yellow
Seeds have an internal dormancy that can be overcome by a moist, chilling period. This treatment is called stratification. Here are the steps to stratify the seeds:
1. Soak the seeds in water overnight
2. Place the seeds in a moist material such as milled sphagnum peat, sterile soil or vermiculite . Fully drain away all of the water and place the seeds in a zip-lock bag.
3. Refrigerate the seeds for 60 days at +1-+4C (33-41F).
4. After the seeds are stratified, surface sow in a container filled with a moist, well-drained germination medium. Cover with glass or plastic and keep the container moist, but not soggy. Keep in room temperature.
5. Requires light for germination
As soon as the seeds germinate, place them under bright lights or move them to a greenhouse or cold frame.
You can sow seeds outdoors in well prepared beds in October or before the winter. Nature will do the job and will germinate in spring.
When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter.
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