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 CaptionThis Japanese stewartia has sinewy bark and grows to 30 to 40 feet tall. (Photo by Hugh Conlon)
The Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) is one of the most handsome large trees for the landscape. This 30- to 40-foot tree is a real specimen. It flowers in July with 2- to 3-inch blooms that are white, vase-shaped and exquisitely fragrant. In fall its long, dark green leaves may turn a myriad of fall colors, from yellow, red to reddish-purple. And in winter, stripped of leaves and flowers, it shows off its sinewy bark that exfoliates in irregular plates of tan and brown. You may have to search a little for the Japanese stewartia at good nurseries, but the hunt is worth it. USDA Zones 5 to 8.