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Northeast Regional Reports

Beautiful Bark on Deciduous Trees

Consider the textural trunks of these captivating trees for winter interest

The elegant copper curls of paperbark maple stand out against the snow. Photo: Kristin Green

Come winter, when gardens go quiet in the Northeast, most of us become so hard up for visual stimulation that we finally get excited about tree bark. Now that our eyes have adjusted to winter, trees’ designer hues and bark patterns are more noticeable, and even thrilling.

River birch bark
River birch bark peels like a wicked sunburn, which looks prettier on a tree than a nose. Photo: Kristin Green

It’s easy to fall for exfoliating bark. Only gardeners in the northernmost reaches of our region with consistently wet soil can grow the classic native paperbark birch (Betula papyrifera, Zones 2–6). The rest of us enjoy the wild pink peels of river birch (B. nigra, Zones 4–9), a multitrunked native tree that is tolerant of heat, humidity, and drought.

Japanese stewartia
Japanese stewartia’s bark flakes off in multicolored patches. Photo: Kristin Green

Another standout, paperbark maple (Acer griseum, Zones 4–8) displays elegant copper curls and…

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