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New River Birch in Weeping Form

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'Summer Cascade' Photo by Thomas G. Ranney

‘Summer Cascade’
Photo by Thomas G. Ranney

Horticulturists are always looking for plants that are new and different. Many cultivars of plants are developed but few gain marketplace popularity. A new type of river birch, ‘Summer Cascade,’ looks to be one of those special plants that is unique enough to make its mark in North Carolina landscapes.

‘Summer Cascade’ is a weeping form of river birch that was discovered by John and Danny Allen at Shiloh Nursery in Harmony, N.C. The river birch is one of our landscape mainstays with its handsome peeling bark, and a weeping form promises something really special. Because of their unique growth habit, weeping plants are often used as specimen plants in the landscape. River birch, like many native plants, is very dependable and has few major pest problems. ‘Summer Cascade’ is considered to be a fast grower. It will form a mounded shrub or small tree if left untrained or it can be provided with trunk support and trained into a tree form.

The development of this tree is a good example of how significant achievements can be realized when a private business and a land-grant university work together. Shiloh Nursery worked with Dr. Tom Ranney, an N.C. State researcher at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Fletcher, to determine how easily the plant could be propagated. Plants that are difficult for nurserymen to propagate are likely to be limited in commercial availability regardless of how many features they possess. Dr. Ranney found that ‘Summer Cascade’ can be rooted easily from stem cuttings.

'Summer Cascade' Photo by Thomas G. Ranney

‘Summer Cascade’
Photo by Thomas G. Ranney

A number of North Carolina nurseries are now growing ‘Summer Cascade.’ Specimens can be seen at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Fletcher and the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. Widespread availability is expected in a couple of years so Carolina gardeners can enjoy this exciting new introduction.
Kevin Starr