Betula nigra is a large and characteristic floodplain tree. Like several other species of this habitat (e.g., Acer saccharinum Marshall and Ulmus americana Linnaeus), it releases its fruits in early summer; the seeds germinate immediately (at a time when the surrounding land is unlikely to be flooded). The wood of Betula nigra is not in high demand for timber because of its generally poor quality. Cultivars with freely exfoliating bark are commonly cultivated in the Northeast and Midwest.
Native Americans used Betula nigra medicinally to treat dysentery, colds, and milky urine (D. E. Moerman 1986).