Ornamental Bark On Trees: Choosing Trees With Showy Bark

Showy Bark On A Large Tree
(Image credit: Oleg Charykov)

Ornamental trees aren’t all about foliage. Sometimes the bark is a show in and of itself, and one that can be especially welcome in the winter when flowers and leaves have disappeared. Keep reading to learn more about some of the best ornamental trees with interesting bark.

Choosing Trees with Showy Bark

Here are some common varieties to choose from for ornamental bark on trees. River Birch – A tree that grows very well on the banks of streams, it can also serve as a specimen on a lawn or garden. Its bark peels away in papery sheets to reveal a striking color contrast with the bark underneath. Chilean Myrtle – A relatively small tree at 6 to 15 feet (2 to 4.5 m.) high, it has smooth, red-brown bark that peels attractively as it ages. Coral Bark Maple – A tree with strikingly red branches and stems. It actually turns more impressively red in cold weather. As the branches age, they take on a darker green cast, but new stems will always be bright red. Crape Myrtle – Another myrtle, this one’s bark peels away in thin layers, creating a smooth but beautifully mottled effect. Strawberry Tree – It doesn’t actually grow strawberries, but its bark is a gorgeous red that peels away in shreds, creating a highly textured, multicolor look. Red-twig Dogwood – Just as its name suggests, this small tree’s branches are bright red. Their color gets even brighter in cold weather. Striped Maple – A mid-sized tree with green bark and long, white, vertical striations. Its bright yellow foliage in the fall only heightens the effect. Lacebark Pine – A tall, spreading tree with naturally flaking bark that makes for a mottled pattern of green, pink, and gray pastels, especially on the trunk. Lacebark Elm – Mottled green, gray, orange, and brown peeling bark cover the trunk of this large shade tree. As a bonus, it’s resistant to Dutch elm disease. Hornbeam – A beautiful shade tree with striking fall foliage, its bark is naturally sinewy, taking on the appearance of flexing muscles.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.