The beauty of bark takes center stage
December 6, 2010
Anyone who thinks trees lose their interest when the weather turns cool and the leaves fall off is missing part of the show. Winter is actually a great time to appreciate the amazing variation in bark from one tree to another. This year, take some time to head outdoors and pay a little more attention to what’s right there at eye level.
Though bark is essentially a protective element for woody plants, the visual variety goes far beyond simple survival. The interest and beauty of the species below may surprise you.
Birch: Several types of birch trees have exfoliating bark. Paper birch, which is native along the Niobrara River, has a chalky-white bark that peels into thin paper-like layers. River birch, common in eastern Nebraska, has an orange to cinnamon-brown bark that peels freely when young.
Coffeetree: Few deciduous trees match the leafless beauty of coffeetree. Its coarse outline and stucco-like bark make it an eye catcher in the winter landscape.
Hackberry: The corky ridges and wart-like projections on the trunk and bigger branches of hackberry make it an easy tree to identify.
Persimmon: Persimmon has a thick, dark (almost black) bark deeply divided into very distinctive small blocks that resemble an alligator’s back.
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White Oak, Swamp White Oak: These two similar species of oak are relatively easy to identify with their flaky, grayish-brown bark patterns.
Bur Oak: The winter silhouette of bur oak can be breathtaking. Many specimens reveal their thick, corky bark that helps make the species fire-resistant.
Quaking Aspen: The smooth greenish-white to cream bark of quaking aspen is a real treat in the western Nebraska landscape. The bark is especially attractive against an evergreen backdrop or dark-colored home.
Shagbark Hickory: Like its name implies, the bark of this hickory exfoliates in long, shaggy strips. There is no mistaking this tree in Nebraska’s eastern hardwood forest.
Sycamore and London Planetree: These two trees are very closely related and both have smooth bark that exfoliates to expose gray, brown and creamy-white layers in a mottled patchwork pattern.
Yellowwood: The gray bark on mature trees is very smooth and gray.
Ponderosa Pine: The bark on older trunks is a great mixture of buff, brown and cinnamon-red scaly plates divided by deep nearly black fissures.
Redcedar and Rocky Mountain Juniper: On older trunks of both trees, the bark is a handsome reddish-brown that peels away in long strips.