Page author: David Giblin
Betula occidentalis
red birch, river birch, water birch

Distribution: Occurring chiefly east of the Cascades crest in Washington; Alaska to California, east in Canada to Ontario, east in the U.S. to the Rocky Mountains and northern Great Plains.

Habitat: Moist areas, streambanks at low elevations.

Flowers: February-June

Origin: Native

Conservation Status: Not of concern


Monoecious, deciduous shrubs or small trees to 8 m. tall, the young twigs with crystalline glands, the older wood smooth and coppery to reddish-brown, not peeling.


Leaves alternate, usually glandular, the blades usually ovate to suborbicular, the tip rounded to acute, the base usually rounded, the margins sharply once- or twice-serrate.


Staminate catkins elongate and pendulous, 1-4 per cluster; pistillate catkins erect, 2-4 cm. long and 4-10 mm. thick, the naked flowers subtended by a 3-lobed bract, puberulent and with marginal hairs.


Samara, the wings about as broad as the pubescent nutlet.

Accepted Name:
Betula occidentalis Hook.
Publication: Fl. Bor.-Amer. 2: 155. 1838.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Betula beeniana A. Nelson
Betula fontinalis Sarg.
Betula fontinalis Sarg. var. inopina (Jeps.) Jeps.
Betula microphylla Bunge var. fontinalis (Sarg.) M.E. Jones
Betula occidentalis Hook. var. fecunda Fernald
Betula occidentalis Hook. var. inopina (Jeps.) C.L. Hitchc. [HC]
Betula occidentalis Hook. var. occidentalis [HC]
Betula papyrifera Marshall ssp. occidentalis (Hook.) Hultén
Betula papyrifera Marshall var. occidentalis (Hook.) Sarg.
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Betula occidentalis in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Betula occidentalis checklist entry.

E-Flora BC: Betula occidentalis atlas page.

CalPhotos: Betula occidentalis photos.

USDA Plants: Betula occidentalis information.

65 photographs:
Group by