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How to Identify Leafless Trees by Their Bark

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How to Identify Leafless Trees by Their Bark

The leaves of spring have well and truly started to unfurl, making it easier to identify trees. But how to recognise a tree when its branches are bare? Join us as we take you through our top tips on how to tell your leafless oak from your bare-branched birch, and plenty more besides.

When you’re trying to identify a tree, but there’s not a leaf in sight, it can be quite a challenge. And that’s where we turn to the bark of the tree to ascertain which species it is.

Bark serves to protect a tree. It is made up of several layers. The outer bark is dead cork. The inner bark is known as phloem. This carries sugars and nutrients around the tree.

There is also a layer of cells between the inner and outer bark, which provides new cork and phloem.

As the tree grows, the dead outer bark layer of cork needs to expand. The way the cork layer is produced creates two different types of bark. One is smooth or peeling bark, and the other is ridged or plated bark.

How to identify trees by their bark

Smooth or peeling bark

Smooth or peeling bark is formed where the new cork is produced as a thin later.

The old layer is lost as dust, resulting in bark that is smooth to the touch. Some smooth barked trees, such as silver birch, shed the think bark in papery strips.

Examples include:

  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Blackthorn
  • Goat willow
  • Hazel
  • Hornbeam
  • London Plane
  • Rowan
  • Silver birch
  • Sycamore
  • Wild cherry

Ridged or plated bark

In other trees, the new layer of cork is thicker. It pushes the old, dead cork outwards, which then splits into ridges or plates.

Examples of trees with ridged bark include:

  • Alder
  • Common yew
  • Crab apple
  • Crack willow
  • Hawthorn
  • Horse chestnut
  • Oak
  • Sweet chestnut

Some tree bark changes as the tree ages. For example, the ash tree bears smooth bark when it is younger, but as it gets older, the bark turns to a ridged appearance. The same goes for the hornbeam.

Tree bark guide

Here is our guide to identifying some of the most common UK trees by their bark:

Beech

Beech bark is smooth, grey in colour with a few gnarls and fissures.

Beech tree bark

Goat willow

Goat willow bark is fairly heavily fissured, often greyish-brown in colour.

Goat willow bark

Hazel

The bark of the hazel tree is smooth and greyish in colour, sometimes bearing patches of lichen.

Hazel tree bark

Horse chestnut

Horse chestnut bark is greyish brown, with deep fissures and prominent pores.

Horse chestnut bark

Oak

The oak tree bears bark which is thick and rough with deep fissures. It’s dark grey to brown in colour.

How to Identify Leafless Trees by Their Bark

Plane

Plane tree bark is smooth and mottled. It is prone to peeling away in regular patches.

Plane Tree Bark

Rowan

The bark of the rowan tree is smooth and greyish in colour, sometimes with a reddish tinge and often becoming rougher with age.

Rowan tree bark

Silver birch

The silver birch has very thin, papery bark with distinctive white areas peeling into thin, horizontal strips.

Silver birch bark

Sycamore

Sycamore bark is greyish brown in colour, with shallow fissures and patches of greenish-white lichen.

Sycamore tree bark

Tree care from the Essex experts

If you are looking for professional help in caring for your trees, whatever species they may be, the long term experienced, fully qualified friendly experts here at TH Trees Ltd are ready to help.

For fully tailored advice and a fast and efficient service in all aspects of tree care, you are welcome to get in touch.

Always provide an excellent service

This is the third time TH Trees have provided tree services to us and we are always really pleased with their friendly, professional service and advice. This time we had a conifer and bush removed and another tree cut right back. Always very tidy, would wholeheartedly recommend.

Thank you Sue for recommending us and for your kind review. It is always a pleasure to help you, and we look forward to being of service again in the future whenever you need us.

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