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H. E. Grelen
The most beautiful of American trees-that's what Prince Maximilian thought of river birch (Betula nigra) when he toured North America before he became the short-lived Emperor of Mexico (11). Also known as red birch, water birch, or black birch (15), it is the only birch whose range includes the southeastern coastal plain and is also the only spring-fruiting birch. Although the wood has limited usefulness, the tree's beauty makes it an important ornamental, especially at the northern and western extremes of its natural range.