In Your Backyard: Looking Closely at Tree Bark

By Bryn Scriver

Early spring is a great time to observe trees and tree bark. Without the distraction of leaves, a person can readily observe the differences in the colors, textures, and patterns of tree bark. It takes practice, but you can even learn to identify trees by just their bark!

Here are a few trees and pictures of their bark to get you started:

Paper Birch Tree
Paper Birch – The bark is thin and white which often peels in paper-like layers. It can be used to make canoe skins (i.e. birchbark canoes).
Shagbark Hickory Tree
Shagbark Hickory – The bark is flaky with long curled strips. The “shaggy” bark provides roosting spots for bats.
Black Cherry Tree
Black Cherry – The scale-like bark looks like burnt potato chips. The inner bark has been used to make cough syrup.













Hackberry Tree
Hackberry – The bark is corky looking with bumps and ridges. The bark has been used medicinally as a gynecological aid.
Bark rubbing on a Silver maple tree.
Bark rubbing on a Silver maple tree.












Bark rubbings are a great way to appreciate the patterns and textures in bark.

What you’ll need—A piece of white paper (thicker paper won’t tear as easily) and a crayon.

How to:

  • Find a tree along a trail.
  • Take out your piece of paper and press it against the bark.
  • Take your crayon and lay it sideways against the paper and rub. Apply gentle pressure.
  • Take rubbings from several different trees and compare the textures of each.
  • You can turn your bark rubbings into your very own tree identification guide, use them to create collages, or frame them and hang it on the wall!

Enjoy a visit to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and remember the Preserve is open from sunrise to sunset, stay on trails, and do not collect or remove bark.