Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Native Trees That Have Interesting Bark Features

(River birch bark image courtesy of Wikipedia)

It’s not always the blooms or foliage of a tree that make it interesting. There are times when the bark is a main focal point on the tree. These native trees of the United States all have interesting bark features that can work well in your landscape.

Cotinus obovatus Raf. (American Smoke Tree, Chittamwood, Cotinus americanus)

This tree gets up to 20 to 30 feet in height and spread. It has yellow-green blooms from May to June. It is named for the billowy hairs that are purple or pink in the summer. It has great fall color in the yellow/red/orange scheme. It is a good accent tree and has flaky attractive bark. It is an adaptable tree, preferring sun or partial shade and dry well-drained soil. Propagate by seed, root cuttings, softwood cuttings, and semi-hardwood cuttings.

Carya pallida (Ashe.) Engl and Graebn. (Sand Hickory)

The sand hickory tree grows up to 80 feet tall with a dense crown and straight trunk. Leaves have five to nine lance-like leaflets. They are compound and seven to 14 inches long. Flowers are yellow-green catkins if male and short small clusters if female. Fruits are thin-husked nuts that are dark brown when mature. Sand hickory trees have gray smooth bark at first and then dark furrowed bark as it matures.

Carya aquatica (Michx. f.) Nutt. (Water Hickory, Bitter Pecan)

This tree gets up to 65 feet tall and one foot wide. It has a narrow crown and prefers partial shade with wet soil. Its flowers are yellow and its fruits are nuts in thin husks. The seeds have a bitter taste, giving the name “Bitter Pecan”. Its bark is shaggy and scaly and lends texture to the tree. Its wood is difficult to work with and is used normally as a fuel source. It is a larval host plant for the Luna butterfly, funeral dagger butterfly, and giant regal butterfly. Propagate by seed.

Betula nigra L. (River Birch)

Known for its paper-like bark, this deciduous tree can grow up to 100 feet tall but is more typically 20 to 50 feet high. It is resilient to flood damage and is good in the tough clay soils found in Georgia. It prefers partial shade and moist neutral pH soil. Game birds love the birch’s seeds. This is a beautiful tree specimen in the yard with its unique paper bark. Propagate by seed or softwood cuttings.


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