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Beautiful bark

Trees can be lovely in the winter, too

During the winter months, I like to take long walks around my neighborhood and look at all the trees. Even in winter they are quite beautiful, and with all the leaves gone, the bark of all the trees really stands out in the landscape.

Tree bark—it sounds so simple, but there is a lot going on in the bark of a tree. The biology and function of a tree’s bark is

Paperbark Maple. Photo: Shelly Nold

quite complex, and it is important that we protect it from injury or damage. If a tree’s bark is damaged, it can affect the overall health of the tree. In some cases, where the damage is severe, it can even kill the tree. This is why deer tree protection is so important for newly planted trees in areas where there are deer.

Flowering Dogwood. Photo: Shelly Nold

Kentucky landscapes have four distinct beautiful seasons, and it is important for the landscape to look good even in the winter. So, consider complex bark as an important visual element in the winter landscape. There are smooth, rough, corky, exfoliating and colorful barks, and each tree has a distinct or unique bark that can also be used to identify it. With some trees, it is the younger branches that have the most colorful bark. As the tree grows and matures, the bark on those mature areas changes and may not be as showy, while the new growth remains vibrant.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a few of the most notable trees with beautiful bark are lacebark elm, sycamore, river birch, paperbark maple, lacebark pine and crape myrtle. All sizes and shapes of trees can have beautiful bark, so consider how the bark looks when deciding to plant your new tree.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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