Barking Up the Right Tree

The beauty of unclothed deciduous trees includes one of their most overlooked but dramatic features: the bark. Especially in winter the many colors, textures and patterns of bark in selected species seem to take on a whole new beauty.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionThe ironwood is nicknamed musclewood for the sinewy ridges of its trunk. (Photo by David Sanford)
American hophornbeam or ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) is a small- to mid-sized native with a rounded profile and drooping branches, topping out at 25 to 40 feet. Its nickname musclewood comes from the sinewy ridges of its trunk; the grayish-brown bark is broken into slender longitudinal strips. Another attractive feature on this tree is the reddish-brown, zigzag twigs. It flourishes in full sun to partial shade in dry and rocky soils. USDA Zones 3b to 9.