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 CaptionTypically 20 to 30 feet high and wide in the landscape, this venerable specimen of Kousa dogwood at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, measures approximately 35 feet wide. (Photo by Hugh Conlon)
When we think of dogwoods we think of spring. Yet Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a plant with great seasonality. The flowers (actually, bracts) appear after the leaves open and persist for six weeks or longer. The Kousa dogwood has wonderful fall color and produces red fruit that looks like raspberries. The berries are edible, but the birds will devour them first. After the leaves and fruit and gone, one can truly appreciate the exfoliating bark that in maturity changes to wonderful mottled shades of gray, tan and vibrant brown. The bark, plus its strong horizontal branching, turns this small (20 to 30 feet) tree to a picturesque winter beauty in form and color. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.