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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Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) is a marvelously tall, vase-shaped tree that reaches 50 to 80 feet in height. This fast-growing tree is considered the replacement for the American elm. It has distinctive foliage, lovely ascending branches and interesting textured bark. In the young tree the bark is a handsome cherry-like, brownish-red, but as it ages it peels to show gray, green, orange and brown. A great shade tree, the zelkova is very wind- and drought-tolerant once established, and it resists pollution and tolerates a wide range of soil pH. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.