Trees For Ornamental Bark and Stems

We are used to thinking of planting trees for their flower or foliage, but many have attractively coloured, peeling or patterned ornamental bark. Some trees will also throw out particularly coloured new growth adding extra interest at the beginning of the growing season.

Acer griseum Ornamental Bark


Acers are often chosen for their autumnal colours and spectacular leaves but the ornamental bark can also be a dazzling feature. The below varieties are particularly well known for their bark:

Acer capillipes

Acer davidii ‘George Forrest’

Acer griseum

Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku (Senkaki)’

Acer rufinerve


Betula trees have a wide range of ornamental bark features, from dynamic white to chocolate brown, smooth and shaggy. It takes time for the bark colour to develop, but it is well worth the wait. Below are just a handful of examples:

Betula albosinensis ‘Red Panda’

Betula ‘Fascination’

Betula ‘Fetisowii’

Betula utilis ‘Snow Queen’

Betula utilis ‘Wakehurst Place Chocolate’

Castanea sativa

Castanea sativa

Also known as Spanish or Sweet Chestnut is a large, fast growing tree with a distinctive twisting bark on the more mature trees. Very important as a timber tree especially for traditional coppicing for railings.

Eucalyptus niphophila Ornamental Bark


Well known for its attractive flaking bark which can often be likened to Python skin. The peeling bark may expose colourful and interesting patterns on the trunk.

Eucalyptus gunnii

Eucalyptus johnstonii

Eucalyptus pauciflora niphophila

Eucalyptus perriniana

Fraxinus Jaspidea

Fraxinus excelsior ‘Jaspidea’

Striking and vigorous variety of the common ash with beautiful golden yellow new shoots, set off by black buds. Although fast growing, it can be pruned hard (coppiced or pollarded) to control its size and enhance the golden yellow shoots in the winter.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides


Previously thought to be extinct until it was discovered in China in the late 1940’s. The orangery red bark turns darker shades as it matures becoming elongated, and deeply fissured.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Goldrush’

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Parrotia persica Ornamental Bark


Mature Parrotia persica trees provide year round interest. The older trunk and branches exfoliate in fine, scaly plates revealing cream, yellow and green colours.

Parrotia persica

Parrotia persica ‘Bella’

Parrotia persica ‘Jodrell Bank’

Parrotia persica ‘Vanessa’

Platanus hispanica

Platanus x hispanica

A noble park and city tree with attractive, mottled or patchwork flaking bark and large palmate bright green leaves. Flowers are inconspicuous followed by rounded, bauble-like fruits hanging in clusters of two-four. Tolerates pruning and severe pollarding.


Though best known for their blossom, Prunus can have some stunning ornamental bark. You will often find some varieties top-worked onto serrula stems to provide the interesting bark with a wider range of flowers.

Prunus himalaica

Prunus rufa

Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula ‘Branklyn’

Prunus x schmittii

Salix Ornamental Bark


A perfect choice for adding some colour to a bare winter garden. Hard pruning in early spring is recommended with those grown for their striking colour. The below varieties will all produce impressive winter stems:

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness’

Salix alba ‘Hutchinsons Yellow’

Salix alba vitellina ‘Britzensis’

Salix alba vitellina ‘Yelverton’

Salix erythroflexuosa ‘Golden Curls’

Sophora Gold Standard

Sophora japonica ‘Gold Standard’

Golden yellow stems contrast against the dark green main stem giving ornamental value in the winter. Foliage emerges with rich butter yellow tones before tuning to yellow-green.

Stewartia pseudocamelia


Related to the Camelia, Stewartias are striking flowering trees with good autumn colour. The below varieties are also well known for their attractive flaking bark when mature, which is red-brown and grey-pink underneath.

Stewartia pseudocamelia

Stewartia rostrata

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

A deciduous coniferous tree to 20m or more, with a conical crown, and fibrous red-brown bark. The feathery foliage is bright green, needle-like and turns bright orange in the autumn. Produces small, round seed cones that are purple when young. A classic for waterside planting. 

Tilia Ornamental Bark


As with Salix the below varieties are perfect in the winter, when the brightly coloured bare stems come into their own. Prune hard in March or April to encourage fresh bright growth.  

Tilia cordata ‘Winter Orange’

Tilia x europaea ‘Golden Sunset’®

Related Articles…

Trees for their Growing Habit

Finding the perfect ornamental tree for your space can be …

Full Details

Trees for Different Locations

The information below should help you find trees for different …

Full Details

Trees for Autumn Colour

Autumn foliage is especially important in the garden during September, …

Full Details

Trees For Birds

Trees of this kind is often not only very pleasing …

Full Details

Follow us on Instagram