What Tree With Peeling Bark Is This? 6 Trees With Bark That Peels (Pics, Zones)

Man pulling back layers from a tree with peeling bark wonders what trees have bark that peels and is peeling bark a danger sign, and what is bark shedding?

Have you ever walked through your neighborhood or a park and noticed a tree with peeling bark and wondered why it was like that?

Well, you have spotted one of many tree species that naturally sheds its bark for an intriguing ornamental effect.

But why do some tree bark peel, and is it normal?

In most cases, peeling bark is simply part of a tree’s natural growth process. As the tree expands, the outer bark layer splits and curls as it’s pushed outward.

This perfectly normal shedding reveals a fresh new layer of bark below. A tree with peeling bark sometimes results in patches that provide great visual interest year-round.

This guide will provide you with in-depth information to help you discover the science behind the tree with peeling bark and why it is special. You will also learn more about 6 common trees known for their peeling bark so that the next time you come across a tree with peeling bark, you will know exactly what it is!

Tree With Peeling Bark: Why Do Some Types of Trees Have Bark That Peels?

Most trees have a bark as a protective outer layer. This exterior bark shields the inner living tissues like the phloem, which carries sugars from the leaves to the rest of the tree and other layers of a tree.

It also protects against external threats like weather, insects, and animals. So, if the bark is important, why do trees shed their bark?16

As a tree grows and expands with age, the bark has to grow along with it. The inner bark called the phloem, produces new bark cells to accommodate this increasing girth.

Meanwhile, the older outer bark layers eventually die and must be shed to make room for new healthy bark. The shedding mostly occurs on the trunk of a tree but bark peeling can also occur on smaller branches and twigs depending on the species.

Graphic of the functions of a tree bark, highlighting its purpose as a protective layer for the tree, defense against external weather, insects, and animals, and its potential to reveal signs of tree health issues.

This seasonal shedding of the older bark is perfectly natural for most trees – it is a natural part of growth.

That said, some species take bark shedding to the extreme, losing large curling pieces of bark each year. As the older dead layers split and peel away, the tree continually reveals fresh new layers of bark below.

This peeling action happens more dramatically on certain trees due to variations in:

  • Bark thickness: Some trees have thicker bark layers that split more noticeably when sloughing off.
  • Bark structure: Fissures found between vertical ridges in the bark provide perfect starting points for extensive peeling.
  • Bark chemistry: The presence and composition of compounds like lignin, cellulose, and suberin affect the brittleness and ‘peeling-ability’ of the bark.

While most trees shed at least some bark every year, the following trees are particularly showy examples that peel in strips, sheets, or plates:

So, while you may be startled to see large curled strips of bark falling off your tree, it’s perfectly normal for these species. The peeling process recurring annually with new growth does not harm the tree.

In fact, the peeling bark has its benefits including:17

  • Eliminating habitat for pests that could hide under its intact bark
  • Increasing light exposure aids photosynthesis in some species
  • Revealing fresh patches of green inner bark on certain trees

However, if you notice abnormal peeling on trees that don’t usually shed, or on unusual parts of a tree that normally sheds, this may indicate an underlying problem. Distinct vertical slits, patches of missing bark, premature leaf loss, fungus growth, and other symptoms could be the reason behind the unusual bark peeling.

As such, it is important to monitor your trees for signs of disease or environmental stress.

Now that you have a good understanding of why tree bark peels naturally on some species, it is time to look at 6 trees that have noticeably appealing peeling barks.

6 Common Types of Trees With Bark That Peels (Pictures of Trees That Shed Their Bark)

Here are some of the best and most common types of trees that you might encounter with bark peelings as an ornamental feature, with pictures of trees that shed their bark:

1. Paperbark Maple

(Acer griseum)

The Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) is one of the smaller,18 more delicate types of maple trees.

This tree with peeling bark is particularly loved for its exfoliating copper-colored bark.

Close-up view of a Paperbark Maple tree showing its copper-colored peeling bark.

(Image: dankeck34)

This slow-growing deciduous tree reaches about 20 to 30 feet high and 15 to 25 feet wide. It has an oval to rounded canopy with branching that sweeps gracefully down to the ground.

As the common name suggests, its cinnamon-hued bark peels off in thin curling sheets, lending great textural interest. This peeling reveals the reddish-brown inner bark in patches for a striking two-tone effect.

The shedding process is most dramatic on mature trunks.

In fall, the foliage turns brilliant shades of red and orange before dropping. The leaves themselves are trifoliate, meaning each has three leaflets.

They emerge red in spring and then mature to a blue-green color during summer.

Paperbark Maple does best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade.19 It prefers consistent moisture so you need to water regularly when it is young and during droughts.

Avoid planting it in soggy soil which can lead to root rot. This tree can tolerate drier conditions once it is established.

Although it will take a long time to grow, it’s fairly low maintenance so you will not need to invest a lot of time and effort. When it comes to pruning, only prune to remove dead branches, as paperbark maple doesn’t take well to heavy pruning.

Also, rake up shed bark debris around the base to keep the area tidy.

Close-up view of a River Birch tree with peeling bark in a forest.

(Image: Dan Keck35)

2. River Birch

(Betula nigra)

The River Birch (Betula nigra) is a tree with peeling bark that naturally grows along riverbanks and streams in the wild,20 but it can also thrive in residential landscapes. This fast-growing deciduous tree reaches 40 to 70 feet high and forms an oval-rounded canopy.

Its cinnamon-colored bark peels off in papery strips to reveal a slightly lighter layer underneath.

This handsome shedding process is most noticeable on mature trunks. The curling strips are more noticeable during winter.

River Birch is hardy, tolerates wet soils, and resists common birch borers.21 For optimal growth, give it full sun and well-drained acidic soil.

It has a shallow root system that can be invasive, so give it plenty of room to spread its roots.

Several cultivars offer improved disease resistance and enhanced peeling for an even more dramatic effect. Heritage is one of the white bark trees that have whiter bark that peels off in wider sheets, while Dura Heat is a more heat-tolerant tree with peeling white bark.

Fox Valley and City Slicker have a brighter white inner bark.

It is advisable to prune River Birch while dormant to avoid tree sap bleeding. Additionally, monitor for signs of borer damage like D-shaped exit holes and fertilize in early spring only if needed.

3. Strawberry Tree

(Arbutus unedo)

The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is an unusual broad leaf evergreen tree with peeling bark that holds onto its leaves while its bark peels,23 offering year-round interest. Mature trees can reach up to 30 feet tall and wide although it tends to grow slowly when young.

Close-up view of a Strawberry tree bark revealing its grey shedding outer bark and vibrant red inner bark.

(Image: Axel Rohde36)

The peeling bark reveals irregular patches of green, brown, and tan as it naturally exfoliates from the red inner bark.24 Meanwhile, white bell-shaped flowers bloom in fall followed by red berry-like fruits that resemble strawberries, hence the name.

This handsome, low-maintenance tree grows well in USDA Zones 6 to 9.25 To make sure that it thrives, give it full sun to light shade and well-drained, acidic soil.

Avoid heavy pruning and fertilizing which can cause excess growth. Rake up shedding bark as needed.

Once the tree becomes mature, it becomes one of the drought-tolerant trees.

Close-up view of a Crape Myrtle tree trunk showcasing its mottled texture peeling bark.

(Image: Uliako Auzo Elkartea37)

4. Crape Myrtle

(Lagerstroemia indica)

Crape myrtles are deciduous shrubs that can become small multi-trunk trees when left unpruned.26

Their peeling bark develops an attractive mottled texture.

Often, the bark sheds in long vertical strips to reveal gray-green inner bark with cinnamon-hued patches.

The effect is especially noticeable and striking on mature trunks.

In summer, Crape Myrtles reward you with huge panicles of ruffled flowers in shades like white, pink, red, lilac, and purple depending on the variety. They can bloom off and on for up to four months.

These flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies while providing a nice soothing fragrance.27

Crape Myrtles grow 15 to 30 feet tall in USDA Zones 7 to 9. Make sure to plant your crape myrtle in full sun and well-drained soil.

You can also prune selectively in winter to highlight the peeling bark but be sure to take away shed pieces. For the best results look for mildew resistant varieties like Tuscarora or Muskogee.

5. Sycamore

(Platanus occidentalis)

The American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is one of the majestic shade trees with peeling bark that grows fast to between 75 and 100 feet tall at maturity although some people consider it ‘messy’ as it is always shedding.28

Close-up view of a Sycamore tree, highlighting its thick trunk, attached green leaves on its branches, and smooth, gray peeling bark.

(Image: 14371038)

Its grayish bark starts off smooth but with age, it flakes off irregularly to reveal patches of white, brown, and green inner bark.29

The mottled sycamore trunk has an imposing appeal during winter. One of the explanations why the Sycamore Tree peels is for protection from leaf-eating caterpillars.

The lighter color, sometimes white, makes it harder for herbivores to hide as they are easily spotted by birds

Sycamores thrive in moist conditions and tolerate flooding, air pollution, and salt spray. They work well in large landscapes where they have room to spread although you can also see a sycamore on the street as some species can survive the urban environment.

However, they create a lot of litter, and their invasive roots damage sidewalks which is the reason they are not common in newer streets.

Give them full sun and prune to develop a strong centerpiece for your landscape. However, be sure to monitor for fungal diseases like anthracnose in humid climates.

Shedding is more after high wind events or after stretches of hot days which will require you to rake up heavy debris from frequent peeling.

Close-up view of a Shagbark Hickory tree trunk, showcasing its curly peeling bark.

(Image: SusquehannaMan42)

6. Shagbark Hickory

(Carya ovata)

The Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) is a North American native shade tree with peeling bark that can grow quite large,30 up to 100 feet tall. If you have enough space to accommodate it, this is a great addition to your landscape.

As the name implies, its bark peels vertically in long curly strips, giving the trunk a ‘shaggy’ appearance.31 This peeling process accelerates with age and looks spectacular in winter.

The Shagbark Hickory tree produces sweet, edible nuts that a lot of wild animals love. It develops a straight trunk and rounded crown.

Give this slow-growing but long-lived tree full sun and moist, fertile soil for it to thrive. Also, you need to pick its permanent site carefully since it has a deep taproot.

How long does it take for a tree to grow? Well, you can expect the Shagbark Hickory to grow 6 to 8 inches every year so patience is key.

Rake away shedding bark strips if they accumulate heavily and prune only while dormant to prevent sap bleeding. If you want to get the maximum peeling effect, look for cultivars like ‘Rogers’ which has an even more pronounced shaggy look.

Other Trees With Peeling Bark

In addition to the top choices already covered, here are a few more tree varieties that have peeling bark worth mentioning:

You now have a solid list of trees with peeling bark to pick from for your own landscape.

Keep an eye out for these beauties at local nurseries. Their naturally shedding bark offers seasonal visual appeal and contrast.

Tree Bark Identification: What Are the Various Types of Bark?

There are various types of bark textures that serve specialized functions in different trees.3,4 You can use the bark to identify a tree.5

Graphic of types of bark showing the difference between smooth bark, peeling bark, ridge and furrowed bark, scaly bark, blocky bark and fibrous bark.

Some common types of bark include:

  • Smooth: This is most common in young trees although the bark usually roughens up as they age through cracking, peeling, or dividing to achieve any of the characteristics below. A smooth bark deters climbing plants and resists fire.
    Examples of trees with a smooth bark include; the American Beech (Fagus grandifolia).6
  • Peeling: A peeling bark sheds outer layers to reveal the new growth underneath, such as in birch and sycamore trees. As the outer layers of the bark peel away in horizontal curling strips and reveal inner layers, this creates a ‘papery’ texture that is guaranteed to draw your attention.
    A peeling bark also sheds lichens and mosses off trees such as the Paper Birch. Examples of trees with peeling bark include; River Birch (Betula nigra)7 and American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).22
  • Ridge and furrowed: A furrowed bark with ridges and fissures of varying depths is the most common type of bark texture you will come across. The varied fissure depths across different trees help them adapt to their unique environment including protecting themselves.
    Examples of trees with furrowed bark include; Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua),8 Black Walnut (Juglans nigra),9 Green Ash Tree (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)10 and White Ash Tree (Fraxinus americana)11
  • Scaly: A scaly bark that separates into large plates or scales and which resembles burnt potato chips such as the one found on pines and spruces protects them against animals and insects. Examples of trees with a scaly bark include; Black Cherry (Prunus serotina).12
  • Blocky: The bark can also split into square blocks that resemble the hide of an alligator. A blocky bark with deep grooves insulates trees like dogwood and persimmon against fire and extreme cold.
    Examples of trees with a blocky bark include; Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)13 and Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana).14
  • Fibrous: Interwoven ridges and furrows that create a fibrous texture deter insects. Examples of trees with a fibrous bark include; Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana).15

When engaging in tree bark identification, you’ll observe that tree barks exhibit a diverse range of colors, spanning from white and golden to shades of green, red, brown, and black. These colors can evolve as the tree matures.

Some trees also have different fragrant compounds in their inner bark that determine their smell such as the turpentine-like smell you feel in some pines. Additionally, features like thorns, pores, and burls on the bark can further deter pests.

These variations all contribute to the tree’s defenses and adaptations to its environment.

Characteristics and Functions of a Tree Bark: What Is a Bark?

A tree bark is the outermost covering of dead tissue found on a woody plant.1

It serves as a protective outer layer that shields the tree’s inner living tissues like the phloem and cambium.2

A long shot of a massive tree trunk with peeling bark in a forest.

(Image: Tama6640)

The tree bark acts as a barrier against various external threats including:

  • Weather elements: The bark insulates the tree against temperature extremes and minimizes moisture loss from extreme wind or sun.
  • Insects and fungi: Toxic compounds found in certain barks deter insect infestation and fungal spore invasion. For example, the acetogenins of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) and the tannins of oak (Quercus ssp.) trees are powerful natural insecticides.
  • Wildlife: The tree bark discourages browsing by animals drawn to the sugar-rich sap in the tree. For example, the bitter, almond-scented cyanogenic glycosides in the bark of a Black Cherry (Prunus serotine) deter beavers from browsing.
  • Fire: A thick and nonflammable bark can protect the cambium layer in a tree during wildfires. For example, the thick bark of a Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) allows it to survive intense fires as it contains no flammable resin or pitch.
  • Physical impact: The bark cushions against any blows or damage from falling debris.

Aside from its protective benefits, the tree bark also has the following important functions:

  • Carries nutrients: The inner phloem transports sugar-rich sap produced in the leaves to the rest of the tree.
  • Stores nutrients: The Bark ray cells distribute and store carbohydrates and starches.
  • Gas exchange: Lenticels in the bark allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to diffuse in and out.
  • Expansion: It stretches and grows to accommodate the tree’s increasing girth.
  • Photosynthesis: Certain barks like in Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and maple (Acer) carry out some photosynthesis.

So, in short, the bark is a crucial multifunctional structure that keeps trees healthy and facilitates new growth. Understanding the tree bark helps explain why some species peel.

Tree With Peeling Bark: Tree Bark and Wildlife

Aside from being ornamental, a peeling bark can also provide habitat and nutrition for wildlife:

  • Birds nest in crannies under shedding bark while probing it for insects. Woodpeckers search for larvae.
  • Mammals like squirrels gnaw off and eat strips of nutrient-rich inner bark.
  • Bears scrape bark with claws to mark territory and food sources.
  • Insects and spiders take shelter in lifting bark plates and furrows.
  • Seed shells also get caught on shaggy bark’s ridges which protects emerging seedlings.

Shedding bark can also defend trees against wildlife damage:

  • It deters bark-boring beetles and other pests by eliminating their possible habitat. Curling strips dislodge hiding places.
  • Toxic compounds in certain barks also combat insects. Tannins and resins make some barks unpalatable.
  • Smooth bark and thorns deter climbing mammals as the slippery surface reduces grip.

So, next time you come across a peeling bark tree, after admiring its beauty, think about all the benefits the peeling bark provides to the tree and the wildlife around it.

Close-up view of a tree trunk, displaying its rough texture and shedding bark.

(Image: NoName_1339)

Peeling provides both food and habitat as well as protection across tree species. Understanding these relationships with nature gives you a sense of the importance of ornamental peeling bark.

Why Does Tree Bark Peel?

The outer bark naturally peels and sheds on many tree species as the tree expands. The growth of new bark layers underneath pushes off the older dead bark exterior.

This seasonal shedding is normal. However, abnormal peeling can result from disease, environmental causes like sunscald, or insect damage.

How Do You Stop Tree Bark From Peeling?

You can’t stop natural seasonal peeling on trees like birch, sycamore, and crape myrtle. This is a normal process.

But if peeling seems abnormal, consulting arborists or tree doctors to diagnose potential issues can help address the causes. Proper care of any tree with peeling bark is key to keeping it healthy and appealing.

When Peeling Bark Is a Sign of a Problem in Bark Shedding Trees

For bark shedding trees, it’s natural to observe the bark peeling off at specific stages of their growth and during particular times of the year. However, abnormal bark peeling, can signify an underlying issue.

If you notice significant peeling on trees that don’t normally shed, it may indicate any of the following issues:

  • Disease: Fungal infections like hypoxylon canker can cause the bark to peel off trees,32 exposing the wood underneath. This is often accompanied by yellowing leaves and dying branches as the disease spreads.
    Immediate tree removal is required in order to stop contamination.
  • Insect infestation: Bark-boring beetles and other pests can damage the inner bark thus causing the outer bark to peel or fall off. To identify an insect infestation, look for small holes, sap flows, and frass dust.
    Insecticidal treatment or removal may be needed to restore the tree.
  • Environmental factors: Temperature extremes, lightning strikes, high winds, winter sunscald, and more can suddenly damage outer bark and cause peeling. This usually resolves on its own but monitor affected areas.
  • Physical injury: Bark damaged from lawn equipment, vehicles, or animal rubbing can peel off, exposing trunk wood. It is important to keep such wounds sealed and clean.
  • Girdling roots: Encircling roots under the soil surface can choke off sap flow, causing bark death and peeling above. To restore the tree, careful root examination and pruning is required.

If you notice abnormal peeling with vertical slits, missing patches, premature leaf loss, or fungus growth on your trees, you need to pay closer attention. Acting quickly to diagnose causes of unusual peeling can help save the tree.

Close-up view of bark shedding trees in a forest.

(Image: AndrewStrong41)

An arborist can help you check for signs of disease, stress, and damage. Proper treatment or removal depends on the extent of inner bark and vascular damage.

Though alarming, localized peeling from injury can often heal if caught early but extensive peeling indicates significant issues requiring prompt action.

Also, it is important to note that the presence of lichen and mosses on a tree is not a sign of trouble.33 These two organisms use the tree as an anchor.

They do not feed on the tree or damage the tree.

Caring for Tree With Peeling Bark

Caring for trees with naturally peeling bark like the ones above involves similar practices as related species that do not possess this ornamental trait including:

  • Water new trees regularly until they are well established then taper off. Provide extra irrigation during droughts.
  • Apply mulch around the base out to the drip line to conserve soil moisture and reduce weeds. When mulching around trees, leave space between the mulch and trunk.
  • Fertilize minimally with a balanced 10-10-10 blend in early spring only if nutrient deficient. Excess nitrogen can spur weak growth.
  • Prune for structure and health in late fall or winter. Remove dead or hazardous branches properly.
  • Monitor for pest problems with frequent visual inspections. Treat damaged or infected trees quickly.
  • Rake up accumulated bark debris around the base. Compost or dispose of it if excessive.

If you notice any bark peeling that seems abnormal with signs of disease, have a certified arborist inspect the tree right away. Addressing causes like fungus infection or environmental damage promptly can potentially save the tree.

Trees with peeling bark like birch, sycamore, and maple provide great contrast and visual depth in landscapes. Use them as:

  • Specimen trees for focal interest
  • Shade trees with seasonal appeal
  • Backgrounds to highlight flowers and underplantings
  • Screens along property borders

Just be sure to give them enough room to reach a mature spread. Raking up sloughed bark is a small chore to enjoy its natural charm.

There you have it! A thorough guide to trees with peeling bark that makes them fascinating landscape specimens. Their curling, patchy bark provides great visual interest year-round.

Now that you know about their decorative shedding patterns, you can identify Paperbark Maple, River Birch, Shagbark Hickory, and other trees with peeling bark. Just look for their giveaway curled bark sloughing off in strips or sheets.

Whether as striking focal points or winter interest, they deserve more widespread use in gardens and public spaces. Next time you spot a tree with peeling bark, you will appreciate how the peeling bark makes it unique.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tree With Peeling Bark

Is Peeling Tree Bark Normal?

Certain trees, including Birch, River Birch, Sycamore, Maple, Strawberry tree, and Crape Myrtle, naturally shed bark in strips or patches due to new growth pushing out older layers. However, it’s crucial to monitor these trees for signs of disease.

What Trees Have Peeling Bark?

Some trees known for peeling bark include Shagbark Hickory, Paperbark Maple, Trident Maple, River Birch, Lacebark Pine, Strawberry Tree, Sycamore, Crape Myrtle and Birch. Many of these are used in landscaping specifically for their ornamental shedding bark.

Is Peeling Bark Bad for Trees?

Most trees with peeling bark shed seasonally as part of their normal growth. However, unusual peeling can signal environmental stress, fungal infections, borers, or other issues that may need intervention.


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32Olson, J. (2017, February). Biscogniauxia (Hypoxylon) Canker and Dieback of Trees. Oklahoma State University Extension. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from <https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/biscogniauxia-canker-and-dieback-of-trees.html>

33Tangren, S. (2023, February 27). Lichen, Algae, and Moss on Trees. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from <https://extension.umd.edu/resource/lichen-algae-and-moss-trees>

34dankeck. Flickr. Retrieved from <https://flickr.com/photos/140641142@N05/28786418563>

35Dan Keck. Flickr. Retrieved from <https://flickr.com/photos/140641142@N05/43107578454>

36Arbutus unedo bark Photo by Axel Rohde / CC BY 2.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/22398641@N02/3977359660/sizes/l/>

37Uliako Auzo Elkartea. CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lagerstroemia_indica-Indimitre_07.jpg>

38Photo by 143710. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/sycamore-tree-tree-trunk-bark-318839/>

39Photo by NoName_13. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/jaw-tree-bark-bark-wood-structure-1543266/>

40Photo by Tama66. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/tree-tribe-tree-trunk-nature-4498383/>

41Photo by AndrewStrong. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/wood-tree-nature-bark-trunk-birch-3096438/>

42SusquehannaMan. CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED. Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shagbark_Hickory_bark_in_Perry_County,_PA.jpg>