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Botanist's Lens: Bark Tales

Barks have many tales to tell: age, stress, genus, disease, and predators. Barks can also be an excellent tool for plant identification when flowers, fruits and leaves aren't accessible.

Barks differ in texture, shape, size, color, peeling or fused bark or clean finish layer. Bark is the outermost protective layer of the trees' trunk and stems of woody plants. "Periderm" is a more technical term for bark. The colors of the bark can vary depending on the genus. It is the chemical compounds in it called "tannins" that give it the tan/red/orange colors. Maples, Crepe Myrtles, Stewartias, and Camellias are some examples of trees that show stunning bark color with shades of red-orange-tan.

Enjoy the pictures of just a fraction of the variety of different barks seen in the woodland and ornamental gardens at London Town. The picture of peeling orange bark belongs to the Crepe Myrtle, while the softer peeling orange bark is Acer griseum. The rectangular block pattern bark belongs to the Persimmon trees, and the braided look bark is of the Tulip tree.

Here is a tip to add interest to your gardens in deep summer or late winter: choose peeling/colored barks that are loaded with tannins. But even without color, the variety of textures alone will add ample depth to your garden.

Barks do have ample tales to tell. But unlike bright flowers, they don't show off their vivid colors in quick blooms. They stand with the tree in solitude throughout its life span, withstanding adverse weather, and protecting the delicate inner layers.

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