Why use mulch?

Common types of mulch colors: mulch vs bark

Wood chips and bark are the most common types of mulch colors, but you can even use stones to good effect.

In most cases, a mulch backyard greatly simplifies your gardening chores. Mulch includes a variety of materials that you use to cover the bare soil in your gardens. Most often you think of it as organic materials such as wood chips, cedar bark mulch, and compost, but it also includes materials like stone and gravel. Adding a layer of mulch pays off by:

  • Reducing water loss from the soil. It slows evaporation and improves water absorption when it rains or you turn on the sprinkler.
  • Slowing weed growth.
  • Improving soil quality. Organic types enrich the soil as they decompose.
  • Protecting plant roots from hot and cold temperature extremes and sudden fluctuations.
  • Adding color and texture as part of your overall garden design.

Whether you’re an ardent gardener or a casual one, you’ll have less watering, weeding, fertilizing and general maintenance.

What type of mulch should I use?

Organic mulch

Use organic mulches when possible, because they decompose and improve the soil as they break down.

Stone mulch

Stone mulch is your best choice on slopes and around downspouts because it won’t wash away.

You’ll find a variety of mulches at your local nursery. But no one type of mulch does it all. Learn the pros and cons of flower bed mulch here.

  • Use an aged organic mulch (partially decomposed wood products) to improve the soil and encourage all-around plant growth. It will continue to decompose and add nutrients to the soil. It’s often sold in bulk. You may have to bag it yourself. Haul it home in a pickup or have it delivered.
  • Use fresh organic mulch (wood chips and bark) where you want to control weeds and improve appearance, but where soil improvement isn’t needed, such as around trees and shrubs. While organic, it hasn’t begun to decompose and will last longer than aged mulch. It’ll also enrich the soil as it decomposes.
  • Use stone to stabilize garden areas vulnerable to washout, for example, on hills and around downspouts. Or use it to improve the appearance of your garden.

Which mulch keeps its color the longest?

Organic mulch colored red

Organic mulch colored with vegetable dyes (like this red bark mulch) adds contrast and interest to gardens. It’ll need replenishing every two to three years.

Gold dye

Mulch with gold organic dye

Black dye

Black mulch landscaping.

No dye

Mulch without dye

Different Colors of Mulch

Most natural organic mulches will turn gray in about a year, depending on the amount of sunlight that hits them. However, if you want more color to accent the colors of your plants and flowers, buy custom-colored organic mulches (photos). They’re processed with vegetable dyes in several colors. Expect the color to last for two to three years. Bright colors like red bark mulch might run a bit during a hard rain, but the color should wash off nearby walks. Colored mulches also tend to have finer textures, a characteristic that helps them mat together and stay in place on slopes. Ask for colored mulch at your local nursery.

Stone mulches also come in a variety of colors, depending on the rock types available. The colors won’t fade, but lighter-colored rock may need periodic cleaning to keep it looking fresh.

Will mulch work everywhere?

Nope. Organic mulches spread over damp, low areas may retain too much moisture for plants. Sometimes they’ll encourage an overpopulation of slugs and other pests that’ll eat or harm certain plants. And rock mulches can get extremely hot and bake shallow plant roots. It’s always helpful to talk to a local nursery expert about local problems and your specific yard conditions when selecting mulch. And ask for recommendations.

Which organic mulch will last the longest?

Chunky mulches: mulch vs bark

Bark mulches consisting of large pieces will last longer than smaller bark and shredded-wood mulches.

In general, pick a type with larger chunks, because it’ll decompose more slowly. And choose bark-type mulches (such as pine bark nuggets) before shredded wood types (such as cedar bark mulch, cypress and hardwood). Keep in mind that mulch reduces maintenance but doesn’t eliminate it. Organic mulches have to be replenished periodically, usually every two to three years.

Will mulch stop weeds?

Apply Mulch

Pull all weeds before mulching and add at least a 4-in. layer to keep weed seeds from germinating.

Mulch won’t stop weeds completely. Applied deep enough, it will prevent many weed seeds already in the soil from germinating and growing. But it won’t stop weeds that have already rooted. Tough weeds like dandelions will push right through if you don’t dig them out first. And more weed seeds will blow in and take root in the mulch (in both organic and stone). All mulch-covered gardens require maintenance, though less than if you don’t use mulch.

How thick should I apply organic mulch?

Ideal mulch depth

Spread about 4 in. of mulch to slow weed growth and retain moisture. However, clear a 6-in. area around woody stems to prevent rot.

A layer of mulch 3 to 4 in. deep will keep most weed seeds in the soil from sprouting and increase moisture retention. However, more isn’t always better. Limit the depth to 5 to 6 in., especially around shallow-rooted plants. And pull back mulch from the base of plants so it doesn’t cause rot.

If you want to use organic mulch on slopes, apply a shredded type about 6 in. deep. It’ll mat together and stay in place better than a thinner layer.

Note: Cocoa bean mulch is popular in some areas because of its deep brown color and chocolate odor. But it’s a bit tricky to use effectively. Apply it no more than 1 in. thick, because thicker layers tend to retain too much water and become moldy. You may also have to replenish it more often because it blows away easily when dry. Also be aware that dogs can get sick if they eat or chew on this mulch.

Where to Buy Mulch and Getting it Home

You can easily calculate how much mulch you need by multiplying the length and width of the garden bed (in feet) and dividing the result by 3. This will give you the volume you need in cubic feet (cu. ft.) to cover a bed 4 in. deep. The volume of mulch in a bag will be printed on the label. You’ll be surprised by how many bags you’ll need. A medium-size SUV can hold about a cubic yard (27 cu. ft.), or about 14 bags. When spread 4 in. deep, that much covers a bit more than a 7 x 11-ft. rectangle. A big garden takes a lot! Consider delivery or bulk (dumped, not bagged) for large areas.

Should I use landscape fabric under mulch?

Use fabric under stone

Place a porous landscape fabric under stone to separate it from the soil and slow weed growth. Don’t use fabric under organic mulches.

Use fabric only under stones and gravel. It’ll keep the rocks from sinking into the soil and make removal much easier if you want to change it later. The fabric will also slow down weeds that have rooted in the soil. Choose a fabric that allows water and air to pass through. Avoid using impermeable plastic, especially if you have trees, shrubs or other plants nearby.

Unfortunately, landscape fabric also makes weeding extremely difficult; you can’t get a shovel down through the rock and fabric. And it’s tough to pull weeds that root into the fabric.

Don’t use fabric under organic mulches. It’s better to let them decompose and mix into the soil.

How do I keep my stone mulch clean?

Cleaning stone mulch

Stone mulch is difficult to keep clean. Use a leaf vacuum to suck up most of the debris.

You’ll have to pull weeds occasionally, but the main problems are leaves and other debris from trees and shrubs that clutter the appearance. The easiest way to remove debris is to suck it up or blow it away with a leaf vacuum. Stone placed directly under a tree is virtually impossible to keep clean. Better to choose organic mulch, because the tree debris will blend in.

What Is Pine Bark: Information On Using Pine Bark For Mulch

Properly placed organic mulch can benefit soil and plants in many ways. Mulch insulates the soil and plants in winter, but also keeps soil cool and moist in summer. Mulch can control weeds and erosion. It also helps to retain soil moisture and prevent splash back of soil that can could contain soil borne fungus and diseases. With so many choices of organic mulches on the market, it can be confusing. This article will discuss the benefits of pine bark mulch.

What is Pine Bark?

Pine bark mulch, as the name suggests, is made from the shredded bark of pine trees. In some cases, though, bark of other evergreens, like fir and spruce, may be added into pine bark mulch.


other wood mulches, pine bark mulch is available for purchase in different forms and textures, from finely shredded or doubled processed to larger chunks called pine nuggets. Which consistency or texture you choose depends on your own preference and the garden’s needs.

Pine nuggets take longer to break down; therefore, last longer in the garden than finely shredded mulches.

Benefits of Pine Bark Mulch

Pine bark mulch in gardens tends to last longer than most organic mulches, whether finely shredded or in nugget form. The natural red-dark brown color of pine bark mulch also lasts longer than other wood mulches, which tends to fade to gray after a year.

However, pine bark mulch is very lightweight. And while this can make it easy to spread, it makes it inappropriate for slopes, as the bark can be easily moved by wind and rain. Pine bark nuggets are naturally buoyant and will float in circumstances with too much water.

Any organic mulch benefits soil and plants by retaining moisture, protecting plants from extreme cold or heat and preventing the spread of soil borne diseases. This is true of pine bark mulch as well.

Pine bark mulch is especially beneficial to acid-loving garden plants. It also adds aluminum to the soil, promoting green, leafy growth.

Our native madrone (Arbutus menziesii) wows in winter, with textural bark in cinnamon brown to reddish brown and intriguing crooked branches.

There’s no doubt that winter weather can leave any home landscape looking a bit bleak. Once autumn’s leaves have fallen, deciduous trees often become lifeless and lackluster, having been stripped of their textural foliage and colorful hues of the growing season. The good news is there are certain trees and shrubs that actually get more interesting during this time of year.
Clearly conifers and other evergreens keep their leaves all year, bringing shades of green to winter gardens and yards. However, the visual appeal of some deciduous specimens extend beyond the growing season with unusual bark hues, patterns and textures that stand out in the winter garden. This is the season when their unique qualities really shine, when their branches and bark are exposed for all to see.
Winter color
Trees and shrubs with colorful bark exposed in winter is a beautiful way to chase away the chill of a lifeless landscape. And few plants have such vibrantly-colored stems as the coral bark willow (Salix alba vitellina ‘Britzensis’). Its ornamental value truly excels in winter, with rich yellow-orange to vividly deep red stems. Cutting stems back before spring growth begins ensures the best color display.

‘Flame’ willow

There are several other varieties of willow that wear a winter wardrobe of colorful bark. Of particular note is the purple osier or purple willow (S. purpurea), a deciduous shrub with purple to purple-brown branches growing 1 to 3 feet tall. And the ‘Flame’ willow (S. ‘Flame’) truly lives up to its name, with flaming orange-red to deep red branches that make for a particularly dazzling display.
Some shrubs have brightly colored twigs or bark that seemingly glow in winter. Redtwig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) punctuates the winter landscape with brilliant red to deep burgundy red winter branches that especially glow against dark evergreens or a snowy landscape.

Actually the bark of each cultivar sports its own distinctive color that brings bold and bright highlights to the winter scene. ‘Silver and Gold’ bears yellow branches, ‘Flaviramea’ has yellow twigs and branches, and ‘Arctic Sun’ features yellow stems tipped in red. Another dogwood taking center stage is the Siberian dogwood (C. alba ‘Sibirica’) with brilliant coral-red branches that make you take notice.
invasive European mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) and its many cultivars, with bark colors that include tawny yellow, copper-red and olive-green.

Other colorful, winter-worthy performers are Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) reveals slender yellowish green to bright lime green stems. And coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) lights up dreary days with its prominently striking, coral red branches and twigs offset by contrasting green tones on the trunk.
Textural tempters
The beauty of this group of “winter winners” lies not only in their color, but also in their texturally-distinctive bark.
Maples are classic examples. The snake bark maple (Acer capillipes) features red leafstalks and midribs, with green-brown bark bearing white stripes that snake up the tree. The older wood of trident maple (A. buergerianum) adds winter interest with its gray, orange and brown peeling bark. And paper bark maple (A. griseum) really steals the show with its smooth and colorfully striking cinnamon brown to reddish brown bark that peels away in paper thin layers.
Birches (Betula spp.) are also sure bets, especially paper birch (B. papyrifera), which has creamy white to brilliant white bark. Additional “white-barked wonders” include Japanese white birch (B. platyphylla japonica), European white birch (B. pendula), and Himalayan birch (B. utilis jacquemontii).
If hues of cinnamon command your attention, then cinnamon clethra (Clethra acuminata) with its attractive tan and cinnamon-colored peeling bark deserves a place in your yard. And our native and drought-resistant madrone (Arbutus menziesii) has smooth bark that exfoliates freely to reveal a beautiful mahogany-red surface.
The flaking bark of Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia) sheds in patches, creating a kaleidoscope of colorfully mottled combinations in brown, gray, green and orange. Lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana) has handsome flaking bark in tones of gray, tan, olive green and red. But when it comes to flamboyant, the Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) has showy bark that flakes off like lightening bolts, revealing a collage of colors in green, gray, brown, terra-cotta, rust and cream.
So what’s the winter scene outside your window? If you don’t like what you see, then make plans now to change your view for the next winter season. The seasonal bonus is this: The beauty of bark will continue to enliven your garden and improve the outlook of your winter landscape for many years to come.

–Kris Wetherbee


– Trees and shrubs are best planted in early-to-late spring or early fall.

– Dig a hole 6 to 12 inches deeper and about twice the width of the root ball or the extended roots. Create a small raised area in the center, then fill hole with water.

– Score the hole’s sides when dealing with clay soil as this will encourage faster root growth.

– Add compost or aged manure to the soil that you have removed from the hole.

– Set the tree or shrub in the hole and backfill the hole with the amended soil.

– Create a moatlike depression around the plant’s base and fill it with water.

– Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch, leaving a 6- to 18-inch mulch-free circle around the tree or shrub’s trunk or base. Water again.

Trees with attractive bark

Many garden trees have a particular, defining characteristic that makes them worth growing. It might be an abundance of blossom in spring, vibrant foliage in autumn or brightly coloured fruits.


Some tree species are highly prized for their striking, ornamental bark. These trees are particularly useful in winter, when colour and interest might otherwise be lacking.

Many trees can be crown lifted by pruning out the lowest branches, which makes the main trunk more visible. The bark of trees like birch and cherries can also be wiped with warm water and a cloth, to remove any algae obscuring the colourful stems.

More about garden trees:

  • Top trees for small gardens
  • Fast-growing trees
  • Native trees and shrubs to grow

Discover some of our favourite trees with attractive bark, below.

Snow gum

Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila

The snow gum, Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila is an attractive evergreen tree with beautiful patchwork bark containing green, grey, green and copper tones. Grow in neutral to acidic soil in full sun.

Snake-bark maple

Acer rufinerve ‘Erythrocladum’

Snake-bark maples have fabulous vertical stripes tracing the bark, created as the trunk expands. Normally the bark is an attractive silvery green, but you can also grow cultivars like ‘Erythrocladum’ and ‘Winter Gold’ that have warmer, golden-coloured bark.


Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

The gleaming, usually white bark of birch trees is always a cheering sight, especially when set against a colourful backdrop. Betula utilis var. jacquemontii is a popular choice for its particularly white bark, but there are many more options. Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis has bark in shades of mahogany, pink and white, while that of Betula ermanii is a creamy gold tone. Betula dahurica has very striking, intensely flaky bark.

Paperbark maple

Acer griseum

As its common name suggests, the paperbark maple has endlessly peeling bark in a rich shade of chestnut brown. The branches have a lovely, spreading habit and in autumn the foliage turns a vivid shade of red before the leaves fall.

Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula

The Tibetan cherry, Prunus serrula, bears shiny, red-brown bark that slowly peels away. When the sun shines on the exposed trunk, it illuminates any papery fragments of bark still attached to the tree to beautiful effect.

Monkey puzzle tree

Monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana Advertisement

Monkey puzzles are long-lived trees with a trunk that is covered in small leaves arranged in a mesmerising spiral. As the trunk ages and lower branches are lost, ‘eye’ holes remain where they once emerged from.

18 Trees with Beautiful Bark

I look forward to every season in the garden and to the unique charms and qualities that each has to offer. In winter, a blue sky day is the ideal time to appreciate trees, both native and exotic, with ornamental bark. Some like crape myrtle, kousa dogwoods and Stewartia species offer not only handsome bark that shines in winter but beautiful blooms too, during the growing season. And certain trees like the native American sycamore or the crape myrtle ‘Natchez’ look good no matter what the season.

Whether peeling, patchy, colorful, shiny or dull, bark is an asset. When you plant trees with ornamental bark, think about siting them against a backdrop of evergreens or conifers which will help to show off their bark, especially in winter. Including one or more trees with showy bark in your garden will help create a landscape with year-round interest.

Below is a list of trees with noteworthy bark. All are good choices for specimens or focal points in the landscape. Most become more decorative as they mature over time. Some like river birch, Betula nigra ‘Heritage’, can get quite large and require lots of room to grow. A blend of colors, their colorful peeling bark can be easily appreciated from a distance or up close.

18 Bark Beauties

1. Trident maple: (Acer buergerianum) This tree has scaly, exfoliating bark that gets more ornamental with age, in gray, orange and brown. Zones 5 to 8.

2. Paperbark maple: (Acer griseum) Here’s a tree that has peeling cinnamon-colored bark. Zones 4 to 8.

3. Japanese maple: (Acer palmatum ‘Bihou’) With yellow peachy stems, Japanese maple is a standout in the winter garden. Zones 5 to 8.

4. Japanese maple: (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) This variety is striking, with coral-orange-red stems in winter. Zones 5 to 8.

5. River birch: (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’) River birch has peeling salmon-white bark. Zones 4 to 9.

6. Paper birch: (Betula papyrifera) Paper birch has chalk white bark. Zones 2 to 6.

7. European hornbeam: (Carpinus betulus) European hornbeam’s bark is gray and muscle-like. Zones 4 to7.

8. Shagbark hickory: (Carya ovata) Big shaggy strips of bark attach at the center and curl up. Zones 4 to 9.

9. Kousa dogwood: (Cornus kousa) This tree has a patchwork of gray, tan, brown and orange. Zones 5 to 8.

10. American beech: (Fagus grandifolia) You can recognize American beech trees by their smooth, silver gray trunks. Zones 4 to 9.

11. European beech: (Fagus sylvatica) European beech trees have smooth gray bark. Zones 5 to 7.

12. Chinese parasol tree: (Firmiana simplex) This tree has dark green bark. Zones 6 to 9.

13. Crape myrtle: (Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’) Crape myrtle has cinnamon-colored bark. Zones 7 to 9.

14. American sycamore: (Platanus occidentalis) Brown bark peels to reveal white inner bark. American sycamore is a large specimen tree that gets showier with age. Zones 4 to 9.

15. Chinese quince: (Pseudocydonia sinensis) Chinese quince has peeling sycamore-like bark. Zones 6 to 8.

16. Tall stewartia: (Stewartia monadelpha) Tall stewartia has cinnamon brown bark. Zones 6 to 8.

17. Japanese stewartia: (Stewartia pseudocamellia) Japanese stewartia has exfoliating gray, red and orange bark. Zones 5 to 7.

18. Lacebark elm: (Ulmus parvifolia) The bark of the lacebark elm sheds to reveal a patchwork of red, brown, green and gray. Zones 4 to 9.

Would you like to plant some of these striking trees in your yard? Hire an expert landscaping contractor.

Erica Glasener is a Networx writer.

Updated January 29, 2018.

Tree bark

As their name suggests, bark beetles (family Scolytidae) are among the insects that use bark. The larvae burrow beneath the bark of various tree species, with the larvae of each beetle species making distinctive galleries, or passages in the wood. These beetles can break through the bark’s defences, carrying in fungal spores that the bark would usually repel.

Even after a tree has died, bark can be a haven for all sorts of wildlife. Bats, such as the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), sometimes roost beneath loose bark, and a multitude of invertebrates also live out their lives in this hidden world.

In the Caledonian Forest, perhaps the most obvious demonstration of the life that bark can support is in the lichen and plant communities on the surfaces of trees. Plants that live upon other trees, without actually causing them any harm, are known as epiphytes – mosses are a good example. The texture of bark influences the species that live upon it. In an old pinewood it is not uncommon to see many other plants such as blaeberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) growing in the thick crevices of pine bark. Similarly, the fissured bark of oak can support many species of fern such as common polypody (Polypodium vulgare).

The texture of bark, and therefore the lichen communities, can alter during the lifetime of a tree. Young hazel (Corylus avellana) has fairly smooth bark, and so attracts lichens that prefer this texture, particularly the Graphidion lichens. (These ‘script’ lichens are distinguishable by the tiny ‘squiggles’ on their surface). As the tree grows older, the bark gets rougher and becomes more suitable for other species, including the leafy, frogskin-like lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria).

The lichen community can also vary on different parts of the same tree. Aspen bark has rough areas, which support various species of strap-like Ramalina lichens, while the smoother areas are host to completely different species, such as the crust-like Pertusaria spp.

It is not only the texture that determines what can survive on tree bark. The chemistry of bark is also surprisingly influential. Aspen bark is not as acidic as that of some other trees such as pine and birch. This feature means that it can support species of plants and lichen that might not otherwise be present in a pinewood, such as the orange Xanthoria parietina. This illustrates how the diversity of certain species (in this case trees) in turn increases the number of other species present.

Food for wildlife

While bark does an excellent job of protecting the tree, there are some very determined creatures that are keen to get to the nutritious cambium, or the wood beneath it. Many mammals eat bark, and by looking at the height of the damage, we can find out what mammals are present in an area. While this is a natural process, it does cause problems for individual trees, allowing fungi and other organisms to enter. Voles often eat the bark at the base of young trees, killing young saplings. Deer also strip bark (as well as damaging it by ‘fraying’ their antlers on it to shed the velvet coating). The bark of aspen and willow is an important food source for the European beaver. This is obviously damaging to a tree, but from an ecological perspective it shows how bark can support a wide range of different species. Also, when a tree is killed or harmed by bark damage, valuable dead wood habitat can be created for fungi, insects and many other organisms. Beavers usually coppice trees before eating the bark. By felling a broadleaved tree, they actually encourage it to send up new growth, which eventually provides young bushy habitat for nesting birds, and allows light to reach the forest floor.

While bark’s main purpose is to protect the tree, it also serves as a good example of how every surface, nook and cranny in woodland can provide food, shelter, or both, for myriad living things, thereby increasing the overall biological diversity in the forest.

Written by Dan Puplett.

Sources and further reading

Brown, R.W., Lawrence, M.J. & Pope, J. (2004) Animals – Tracks, Trails and Signs. Hamlyn: London.

Mitchell, A. (1982) Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins: London.

Steven, H.M. & Carlisle, A. 1959. The Native Pinewoods of Scotland. Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh.

Peeling Bark On Trees: What To Do For Trees That Have Peeling Bark

If you have noticed peeling tree bark on any of your trees, you may be asking yourself, “Why is bark peeling off my tree?” While this is not always a cause for concern, learning more about what causes peeling bark on trees can help shed some light on this issue so you’ll know what, if anything, should be done for it.

Why is Bark Peeling Off my Tree?

When bark peels off a tree, determine whether the tree is going through a normal shedding process or if injury or disease is causing the problem.

If you see bark covering the wood after the old bark peels away, the tree is probably undergoing a normal shedding process.

If you see bare wood or mats of fungus under the peeling bark, the tree is suffering from environmental damage or disease.

Trees That Have Peeling Bark

A tree with peeling bark doesn’t always indicate a problem. As

a tree grows, the layer of bark thickens and the old, dead bark falls off. It may crumble away slowly so that you hardly notice it, but some types of trees have a more dramatic shedding process that may be alarming until you realize that it is perfectly normal.

Many trees are naturally prone to peeling and offer unique interest, especially in winter. Trees that naturally shed bark in large chunks and peeling sheets include:

  • Silver maple
  • Birch
  • Sycamore
  • Redbud
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Scotch pine

Environmental Causes Behind Tree with Peeling Bark

Peeling tree bark is sometimes due to environmental factors. When peeling bark on trees is limited to the south or southwest side of the tree and bare wood is exposed, the problem may be sunscald or frost damage. This type of shedding affects the health and lifespan of the tree, and wider areas of exposed wood make it more likely that the tree will die.

Horticulturalists disagree about whether wrapping the trunks of trees or painting with white reflective paint helps prevent sunscald. If you wrap the trunk of the tree over winter, make sure you remove the wrapping before spring so that it doesn’t provide shelter for insects. Trees with splits in the bark can live for many years if the damaged area is narrow.

Peeling Tree Bark Disease

Hardwood trees that have peeling bark may be suffering from a fungal disease called Hypoxylon canker. Peeling bark caused by this disease is accompanied by yellowing and wilting leaves and dying branches. In addition, the wood under the peeling bark is covered with a mat of fungus. There is no cure for this disease and the tree should be removed and the wood destroyed to prevent the spread of the fungus. Cut down the tree as soon as possible to prevent damage and injury from falling branches.

18 trees with beautiful bark

Take a closer look

A crisp winter day with blue skies is the ideal time to appreciate trees with ornamental bark. Some like crape myrtle, kousa dogwoods and Stewartia species (a Stewartia pseudocamellia is pictured here) offer not only handsome bark that shines in winter but also beautiful blooms during the growing season. And certain trees like the native American sycamore or the crape myrtle ‘Natchez’ look good no matter what the season.

Whether peeling, patchy, colorful, shiny or dull, bark is an asset. When you plant trees with ornamental bark, think about siting them against a backdrop of evergreens or conifers which will help to show off their bark, especially in winter. Including one or more trees with showy bark in your garden will help create a landscape with year-round interest.

Here are several trees with noteworthy bark. All are good choices for specimens or focal points in the landscape. Most become more ornamental as they mature over time. Some, like river birch Betula nigra ‘Heritage,’ can get quite large and require lots of room to grow. A blend of colors, their colorful peeling bark can be easily appreciated from a distance or up close.

Erica Glasener originally wrote this story for Networx.com. It is republished with permission here and some modifications and additions have been made.

You’ve noticed bark falling off a tree on your property. You don’t want to risk losing a tree that provides many benefits to your landscape and outdoor lifestyle. What should you do?

First of all, don’t panic. There are many reasons for that loose bark you see at the base of your tree, and they aren’t all bad. In fact, some are perfectly natural, or at least due to nature. And, those that do indicate problems can usually be remedied.

Tree bark is essentially the outermost, dead layers of cambium—the living tissue of trees that transport minerals up from the roots throughout the tree. The bark serves an important function in the health of the tree. Just like our own skin, tree bark protects the inner layers of the growing tree from the elements. It also provides a barrier against insects and disease.

But your trees are more than a living example of nature and science. Your trees are an investment. Whether you’ve selected them for your landscape or they grew there naturally, trees add to the aesthetic beauty and value of your property. More than that, they play many important roles both in our ecosystem and landscaping.

Of course trees absorb carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other gases, and then release oxygen into the air—one large tree can supply a day’s oxygen for up to four people. Trees also reduce water runoff and prevent soil erosion. Good reasons for doing all you can to keep your trees healthy.

Deciduous (leaf bearing) trees reduce air temperature in the summer by blocking sunlight. In winter, the sun’s warming rays pass through the bare branches. This can greatly assist in the cooling and heating of buildings, as well as regulating the air temperature in your outdoor spaces. Both deciduous and evergreen trees create microclimates suitable for shade-loving plants and provide important barriers to wind and noise.

Trees fulfill all of these roles, whether in nature or a designed landscape. After nurturing the healthy growth of the trees in your landscape, you don’t want to take the chance of losing even one. Your first step, if bark is falling off trees on your property, is to determine what the possible cause might be.

Below are the most common reasons for bark loss.


Trees grow from the inside out by forming layers of fibrous tissue. This causes the outer layers to expand—the older a tree is, the less flexibility in the bark. With the loss of elasticity, the bark will crack and split and eventually fall away from the trunk. For this reason, you will always see a certain amount of bark falling off trees throughout the growth cycle.

In some species, such as birch trees, this natural shedding presents as peeling of the outer layer. Wind, animals, and simply time will cause the old bark to fall away from the tree.

Weather Stress:

A sudden, heavy frost can sometimes result in bark falling off trees, especially on the south or southwest facing side of the trunk. Sudden, or great fluctuation in temperature can cause cracks in the bark, and eventually it falls off. Likewise, sudden, extreme heat can cause similar damage and bark falling from trees.

Weather stressed trees will benefit from some tender loving care. Mulch around the base of the tree and provide plenty of water to hydrate the tree when the soil is dry. Be sure to use a quality, organic mulch and refresh it in the spring and fall.

Animal Damage:

Many species of animals can and will strip bark from trees for various reasons. Sometimes, this behavior is weather related, such as looking for moisture during a drought, or to dig out a tasty meal of burrowing insects and larva.

Squirrels can be especially bothersome, exposing large surface areas of a tree’s inner layers, leaving chunks of bark on the ground. Others animals known for stripping bark include bears, rabbits, field mice, and voles.

On an otherwise healthy tree, limited bark stripping by animals doesn’t pose a significant threat to the tree, however, the exposed layers are susceptible to insect and fungus invasion. In some cases, when the bark is stripped entirely around a branch, it should be removed.

If you suspect animal damage is responsible for stripping and bark falling from trees in your landscape, Mr. Tree can help remedy the problem with the use of protective barriers and, if necessary, professional pruning.


Bark falling off a tree can sometimes be an indication of fungus just beneath the outermost layer. Small bits and larger pieces of dead and already decomposing bark will break off and collect at the base of the tree.

Black, brown, or red colored lesions on the trunk and branches of trees (cankers), penetrate the bark. They will cause disfigurations and branch dieback if left untreated. Cankers may eventually kill a tree.

Insect Damage:

Many species of tree, both deciduous and evergreen, are susceptible to insect invasion that may result in bark falling off trees. Insect borers common to the Pacific Northwest include the Asian Longhorned Beetle and the Bronze Birch Borer.

However, infested deciduous trees will most likely not lose their bark. Instead, noticeable holes and sawdust will be observed near the base of the tree trunk.

Western Pine Beetles, on the other hand, will cause the bark to loosen and fall from the trunk. Coulter and Ponderosa pines are especially vulnerable to Western Pine Beetle infestation. Trails, or galleries, on the exposed layer of the trunk house the insect’s eggs and are a sure sign of infestation.

If you see signs of these invaders, don’t waste time—call the professionals at Mr. Tree for a free consultation.

If you suspect that bark falling off your trees is a cause for concern, the best course of action is to get a professional assessment. Our professional arborists can identify the cause, offer suggestions for improving the health of your trees, and provide solutions for saving your trees whenever possible.

Tagged as: bark falling off a tree, tree bark, Tree Care

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