Most people are happy to settle back in their cozy, warm homes when winter arrives, welcoming a break from yard-work, but the winter yard can appear bleak and barren. However, there are ways to spruce up the yard with a little initial labor that rewards the homeowner for years to come. Trees with peeling bark add interest and color to the winter landscape. Depending on the tree, a little pruning might be the only tending it needs.
Seven Son Flower
Seven son flower (Heptacodium miconioides), a native to China, displays fragrant white blooms in August followed by pink calyxes and reddish-purple fruit in fall. Bronzed peeling bark adds winter interest to seven son flower, and it reaches 15 to 20 feet tall. As the tree ages, the peeling bark becomes more pronounced. It grows in full sun to partial shade and is cold hardy to USDA hardiness zone 3. This hardy tree tolerates most soils and is void of any serious diseases or insect problems.
Paperbark maple (Acer griseum), a deciduous tree native to Western China, tolerates heavy clay soil and reaches a height of 20 to 30 feet. It prefers full sun but can tolerate four hours of shade each day. Paperbark maple displays gold to red fall foliage and attractive chestnut-brown bark that peels in winter. This disease- and pest-resistant tree is hardy to USDA zone 4.
River birch (Betula nigra L.), a native to the southern United States, grows naturally along the banks of rivers and creeks. Its gracefully arching branches and peeling bark make it a viable focal point for the front yard landscape. The satiny silver bark displays a cinnamon-brown trunk. The slender trunk of river birch makes it especially attractive when planted in groups of three in the residential landscape. River birch usually reaches 30 to 50 feet tall, but it can reach as much as 90 feet tall. River birch can serve as erosion control on wet slopes and hills, due to its ability to thrive in wet conditions. This tree attracts seed-loving wildlife. It's winter hardy to USDA zones 5 through 8.
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), also known as American sycamore, eastern sycamore, buttonwood or buttonball tree, is a hardy native to eastern North America. This deciduous tree grows 75 to 100 feet tall and sometimes to 150 feet tall. It's recognized as the largest tree native to the United States. You can find sycamore growing naturally in lowland areas and along streams, rivers and flood plains. The peeling-brown bark with its creamy-white under-bark makes this tree an attractive ornamental. In fall, the green foliage turns yellow-brown. Spring flowers appear in clusters of yellow male flowers and red female flowers. Sycamore prefers rich moist soil and full sun but tolerates light shade. It's hardy to USDA zones 4 through 9.
- Colorado State University Extension; A Tree for All Seasons; Judy Sedbrook; 2010
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center: Betula Nigra L., River Birch
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Platanus Occidentalis
- Iowa State University Extension; The Winter Hardy Garden; Richard Jauron; 2001
- "Native Trees for North American Landscapes"; Guy Sternburg; et. al,; February 2004