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Hardy Ornamentals with Attractive Bark

by Contributor April 12, 2016

Many people select ornamental trees for their aesthetic qualities, like pretty flowers, showy foliage or extraordinary fall color. But these features are all relatively temporary (except in the case of evergreens with showy foliage, but such species are not especially common). Flowers disappear within a few weeks; fall color fades even more quickly.

By contrast, tree bark is a year-round and underappreciated source of visual appeal. In fact, interesting tree barks are usually most conspicuous during the winter, when few trees display attractive leaves, flowers or fruits. When it comes time to install new trees in your yard or commercial lot, give the following species the consideration they deserve.

·         Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) – Chinese elms are remarkably hardy trees, which occasionally grow into 60-foot-tall specimens that can become the focal point of any property. Their flaking, red, gray and brown bark is quite striking, even when viewed from a distance.  


·         Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) – Strawberry trees are a great selection for those looking for a tree with attractive bark and edible fruit. Often likened to sweet figs, the fruit of strawberry trees derive their name from their superficial resemblance to strawberries. Many strawberry trees become little more than a large shrub, but others may reach 30 feet in height.

PikiWiki Israel 40974 Arbutus.JPG

·         Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) – Paperbark maples are revered for their attractive, cinnamon- to orange-colored bark which covers the trunk and older branches. Growing to only about 25 feet in height (and taking their sweet time to do so), paperbark maples are excellent specimens for shady, restricted spaces. Additionally, as many of their maple relatives do, paperbark maples often produce very attractive fall foliage.

·         Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’) – Coral bark maples feature many of the traits that make other Japanese maple cultivars popular, but they also possess rich, pink bark. Like most other Japanese maples, coral bark cultivars require little maintenance and work well in shaded locations.

·         Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum) – As their common name suggests, striped maples have long vertical stripes that travel along their trunks and major branches. While their stripes are often somewhat subtle, these small trees – which rarely exceed 25 feet in height – provide a great choice for shaded locations.

·         Lacebark Pine (Pinus bungeana) – Most pines are clad in rather uninspiring bark, but lacebark pines possess some of the most interesting barks of any conifer. While it may take a decade for their characteristic, flaking, multi-colored bark to live up to its name, these underappreciated Asian pines are well worth the wait.

·         River Birch (Betula nigra) – The river birch is native to the eastern half of the United States, where it is commonly planted as an ornamental or accent tree. Because it has adapted to living in riparian zones and floodplains, the river birch will survive in areas that are too wet for most of the other species on this list. River birches often grow as a two- or three-stemmed clump of leaning trees.  

·         Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana) – Like river birches, ironwoods are also at home in low-lying regions, so they will tolerate moderately damp soils – even occasional floods. Ironwoods are named for their strong wood and muscle-like appearance, which presents as much visual appeal as their smooth, gray bark does. 

If you would like assistance installing any of these trees in your own yard – or you need any other professional tree services in the San Francisco area – contact Arborist Now. We are here to serve all of your tree needs! 

Photos from Pixabay and Wikipedia. 

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