Trees with Beautiful Bark

My Garden Life
December 14, 2022
Table of Contents

By Reese Kimmons

The bark of a tree can be one of its most overlooked attributes. There are trees with colorful or multicolor bark, trees with shaggy bark, trees with smooth bark, and trees with white bark. A tree’s beautiful bark becomes most apparent in winter, when all the leaves have fallen, and the tree’s true form and texture is revealed. Trees with colorful or unusual bark stand out, bringing a unique beauty to the frosty landscape.

Let’s take a look at ten trees with interesting bark, their characteristics, and where they grow best. You can check the USDA hardiness zone map to find out which of them will thrive in your area.

Ten Trees with Beautiful Bark

1. Clump River Birch Bark

(Betula nigra)
Clump river birch, Betula nigra, close up of beautiful bark and image of mature tree in landscape
The clump river birch is a tree with peeling bark that exposes the reds, browns, and grays of the inner bark beneath. The tree’s multi-colored bark stands out most in the winter when the tree is bare. This tree loves water, so it’s a great choice for an area of your landscape that retains moisture. The river birch also loves full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Zones 4 through 9.

2. Red Twig Dogwood Bark

(Cornus sericea)
Red twig dogwood, Cornus sericea, close up of beautiful red bark and shrub in summer with white flowers
In the spring, a red twig dogwood’s white flowers make it stand out. Birds enjoy the berries it produces. When temperatures cool, the reddish-purple leaves and red bark of this dogwood mix beautifully with the foliage of evergreens in a landscape. Your dogwood will do well in sun to partial shade. Zones 2 through 8.

3. Japanese Red Pine Bark

(Pinus densiflora)
Japanese red pine, Pinus densiflora, close up of bark and close up of a branch showing the pine needles
Speaking of evergreens, a Japanese red pine would make a great backdrop for your dogwood. As its beautiful bark ages, it often assumes a gray tint. This is a tree that sheds bark, exposing an orange or red color beneath. The multicolored bark along with its evergreen needles and cones are a beautiful site against a wintry background. The Japanese red pine enjoys full sun and does well in small spaces. Zones 3 through 7.

4. Crape Myrtle Bark

(Lagerstroemia indica)
Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, close up of colorful bark and mature tree in the landscape in full bloom
You can prune your crape myrtle and use it as a hedge or bush or let it grow into a tree. Either way, you’ll enjoy it’s red, purple, or pink flowers throughout the spring and summer. In the winter, the peeling decorative bark reveals the multicolored bark beneath. The grayish-green and cinnamon bark tones add aesthetically pleasing contrast to the winter landscape. The crape myrtle also makes a great addition to winter container gardens. Zones 7 through 9.

5. Lacebark Elm Bark

(Ulmus parvifolia)
Lacebark elm, Ulmus parvifolia, close up of bark and a view of the foliage and seeds in the summer
As the lacebark elm exfoliates, it exposes beautiful multicolored bark in a patchwork of brown, green, red, and gray shades. This tree is easy to grow in sun to partial shade and doesn’t require a lot of space. As a bonus, the fall foliage of this tree is beautiful, too. Zones 5 through 8.

6. Japanese Maple Bark

(Acer palmatum)
Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, tree in the landscape and close up of the burgundy-red leaves in summer
During the fall, the beautiful colors displayed by the Japanese maple are a precursor to the peach and yellow shades of its winter branches. As this tree grows, its beautiful bark and vivid fall display only get better. Get some ideas here on how to integrate a Japanese maple and other small tree varieties into your landscape to achieve a big landscape look. Zones 5 through 8.

7. Paper Birch Bark

(Betula papyrifera)
Paper birch, Betula papyrifera, close up of white peeling bark and partial photo of mature trees in fall with colorful foliage
The chalk white bark on the trunk and branches of the paper birch peels back to reveal a reddish-orange bark beneath. With its yellow fall foliage and peeling multicolored bark, the paper birch is certainly eye-catching as fall fades to winter. This summertime shade provider does well in full to partial sun. Zones 2 through 7.

8. Ghost Gum Bark

(Eucalyptus papuana)
Ghost gum, Eucalyptus papuana, close up of the beautiful bark and mature ghost gum in the landscape
If you live in the warmer climate of zones 9 and 10, this Australian import should do well for you. Named for its color, the ghost gum is another tree with peeling bark. Its ghostly gray bark sheds away to reveal an underlying rusty brown. This sun-loving tree also produces pink flowers during the spring and summer. Zones 9 and 10.

9. American Beech Bark

(Fagus grandifolia)
American beech, Fagus sylvatica, close up of the smooth bark and a mature tree in the landscape with fall leaf colors
The American beech is a tree with smooth gray bark and glossy foliage that yields edible beechnuts enjoyed by wildlife. It’s very easy to grow and is low-maintenance. It will adapt to most well-drained, fertile soils and can grow to 70 feet (21.3 meters) in height. The beautiful gray bark is a great place to carve your initials. Once you do, they’ll be there for the life of the tree. Zones 3 through 9.

10. Evans Cherry Bark

(Prunus cerasus ‘Evans’)
Evans cherry, Prunus cerasus 'Evans', close up of the red peeling bark and a mature tree with cherry fruit in the landscape
The Evans, or Bali, cherry is a small ornamental tree with red bark that produces fragrant blooms and delicious red cherries during the summer. Its deep red bark becomes a focal point in what might otherwise be a drab winter landscape. Planted in full sun, this cherry will grow to about 10 feet (three meters) in height and is an excellent companion for plums, apples, and pears. Zones 4 through 8.

Is a Tree Shedding Bark Normal?

Many trees in this list attain some of their beauty from their natural tendency to shed their bark throughout the season. If you have a tree that doesn’t normally shed its bark as part of its natural growth process, then your tree may have a problem. Your tree may have suffered physical damage such as sunscald, a lighting strike, bark split as a result of rapidly changing temperatures, or injury from lawn equipment that has led to death of an area of trunk.
Shedding bark can also indicate disease or insect problems. Investigate why your tree might be shedding bark and consult with a tree expert if needed to see if any protective actions are needed.

Create a Beautiful Winter Landscape

Holly shrub in winter with berry clusters dusted with snow

Trees with interesting bark can help fill the visual void left in your landscape by annuals and other perennials when winter arrives. In fact, with a few tips for a beautiful winter garden, you can create a winter scene that’s just as appealing as any of the seasons that feature flowers and foliage.



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