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Plants from the Ground Up

City Slicker Birch

Birch City Slicker® Bark

When I first saw the wonderful bark of the City Slicker® Birch I was completely smitten! This is a Birch tree that I hope to see planted in gardens across the country. City Slicker was first found growing in a native stand of Betula nigra (River Birch) in Oklahoma. One of the most interesting things about this cultivar is that unlike other Betula nigra this one does not have the typical brown bark, but a lovely whitish/tan peeling bark that is more similar to B. papyrifera (Paper Birch) or other white barked species.

City Slicker has dark green, toothed, diamond-shaped and glossy foliage that grows in an alternate arrangement on slightly glabrous branches. It grows into a pyramidal tree 30-40′ tall and 20-25′ wide and it is especially beautiful in fall when its foliage becomes a lovely glowing gold color. River birch have interesting wind-pollinated catkins in spring, with monoecious (of both sexes) flowers. Catkins are a spicate inflorescence bearing scaly bracts. The River Birch is endemic to North America and has long been used as a sweetener by Native Americans. The sap and bark are still used commercially today to make delicious tasting Birch beer.

Birch City Slicker® Leaf

Do not let the common name of River Birch fool you, this is a very drought resistant tree, making it a perfect specimen for waterwise and city gardens. City Slicker is also very winter hardy, it was tested in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin and withstood temperatures of -21°F with no damage. Not only is City Slicker River Birch cold tolerant it is more tolerant of heat as well, outperforming ‘Dura-Heat’ or ‘Heritage’.

This cultivar was selected by Dr. Carl Whitcomb and is reproduced by tissue culture. Whit XXV’ PP16573 USDA Hardy from zones 5-9.

For more photos and information, see Betula nigra City Slicker® at the Forestfarm Store.

2 Comments

  1. Your description of the origin of this cultivar differs significantly from that of the grower and patent holder, Dr. Carl Whitcomb.

    • Hi Brandon,

      Thank you very much for calling to my attention the error in my blog of the listing of the origin of this cultivar. I certainly want to give proper credit to the founder and have updated the blog post to reflect the correct information. I very much appreciate your email.

      All my best,

      Jen

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