A new woody plant selection, Emerald Beacon Tianshan Birch, was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the NDSU Research Foundation in 2016. The selection was developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program under the direction of Todd West, associate professor of plant sciences, and research specialist Greg Morgenson.
Emerald Beacon is a distinctive, cold hardy birch selection that grows in a narrowly pyramidal form. It sports emerald green foliage throughout the summer and bright golden-yellow foliage in autumn. Its slight exfoliating white bark is extremely showy, adding significant seasonal interest.
At maturity, Emerald Beacon stands 30 feet tall with a spread of 12 feet. Summer foliage is of high quality without blemishes resulting from birch leafminer or leaf spot. During summer drought conditions, it exhibits no foliar stress symptoms such as leaf scorch or early leaf drop, which is seen on many other birch species.
The tree prefers full sun exposure to very light shade, a well-drained soil and is tolerant of higher pH levels without chlorosis. It is hardy in USDA climatic zones 4a-6.
NDSU's Woody Plant Improvement Program has served the Northern Great Plains for more than 60 years, beginning germplasm trial evaluations in 1954. In 1974, NDSU purchased an 80-acre farm near Absaraka, North Dakota, to be established as the NDSU Horticulture Research Farm. Approximately 45 acres of the farm is used for evaluation, selection and breeding of woody ornamental plants.
NDSU woody plant introductions are being propagated for sale by commercial wholesale firms in four countries: Australia, Canada, England, and the United States. The project has introduced 55 superior woody plants for production and sale with increased disease tolerance and winter hardiness for landscapes.
The goals of the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program are selection, evaluation and introduction of hardy superior woody plants for the landscape industry.
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