21 Trees With Ornamental Bark For Winter Interest

With winter on the horizon, the garden can look a bit bare and brown. These 21 trees have beautiful, ornamental bark that will liven up the winter landscape and create interest in the garden year-round.

A Crape myrtle tree stands tall, its branches adorned with vibrant green leaves that shimmer in the dappled sunlight. Majestic mountains create a picturesque background, bathed in the soft hues of the sun's gentle embrace.


Some trees are most prized for their flowering abilities, and others for their attractive foliage. These are the garden stars for most of the year, from flowers in spring to brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold in the fall. However, winter is the season for trees with ornamental bark to take center stage. 

Many species of trees have ornamental bark. This includes trees with colorful, peeling, or otherwise unusual bark that sets them apart and makes them beautiful, even when they drop their leaves and enter winter dormancy. 

When cultivating these trees, you can make more of their decorative bark visible by pruning the lower branches and creating more clearance under the tree. Many of these trees are also flowering varieties, and some boast stunning fall foliage

Here is a list of 21 trees with striking bark to liven up the winter landscape and add interest to the garden when there is little else to look at. Some are large and need a lot of space to grow, while others are smaller, making them versatile and manageable. 

American Sycamore

An American Sycamore captivates with its spherical fruits dangling gracefully from sturdy branches. The leaves, characterized by their unique shape, create a lush canopy that provides shade beneath this natural marvel.
This sycamore is an excellent choice if you want a standout winter tree.
botanical-name botanical name Platanus occidentalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 100’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

American sycamore is a great place to start if you’re looking for a tree that makes a winter statement. This gigantic species of sycamore can grow to 100 feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to 15 feet. This is quite an imposing tree, with a large open canopy and fruits that often remain on the tree after the leaves have fallen. 

The American sycamore is not particularly noteworthy in autumn. Its large, maple-like leaves turn brown before falling off. The bark is, however, exciting and makes a great focal point in the winter when its leaves are gone.

Its brown outer bark sloughs away in large sheets. Beneath this layer, new, white bark shows through in pretty patches. 

Black Cherry

A close-up reveals the Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), its branches adorned with clusters of violet and red cherries, forming a striking contrast against the red-barked branches. The leaves, rich and green, frame this vibrant display of nature's beauty.
The mature bark of the black cherry exhibits thickness and a scaly texture, often peeling away in certain areas.
botanical-name botanical name Prunus serotina
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 50’-60’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Black cherry is a wonderful tree for winter interest, and it has an exceptional range, growing from zone 3 to zone 9. It is a large tree with an average mature height between 50’-60’ tall, but some specimens reach an imposing 110 feet. 

Flowers in spring are followed by red fruits. In fall, the leaves turn golden before going dormant for the winter. The mature bark is thick and scaly, with a sloughing habit that sees the bark flipping up in some spots. 

The black cherry is an important North American native. Its wood is valuable for producing furniture, toys, and scientific instruments. A cough medicine is also derived from the tree’s interesting bark. 

Coral Bark Japanese Maple

A close-up of Coral Bark Japanese Maple showcasing its unique leaves. Each leaf showcases intricate patterns and vibrant orange and yellow hues, creating a captivating tapestry of foliage.
Like most maples, coral bark Japanese maple boasts stunning spring and autumn foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

This is one colorful maple tree that you have to see to believe. Most maples have wonderful spring and fall foliage; the coral bark Japanese maple is no exception. Spring leaves come in a chartreuse color before turning darker green in summer. During fall, the foliage changes to red and bronze before falling off for the winter. 

As you may have guessed, the coral bark Japanese maple’s bark is a brilliant shade of coral red. I love this tree as a multi-trunk, shrubby tree, as multiple trunks mean even more of the beautiful bark. This maple reaches 20-25 feet tall, making it a nice, small, manageable tree that can be planted near the home for optimal viewing. 

Cork Oak

A close-up displays the rugged texture of a cork tree stem, where exposed cork bark adds character to the surface. The presence of delicate moss adds a touch of nature's artistry to this intriguing composition.
The cork oak’s bark becomes progressively thicker and more knotted as it ages.
botanical-name botanical name Quercus suber
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 65’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

Cork oak is an evergreen, so it doesn’t lose its bark for the winter, but it does have some unique and useful bark, so if you have the opportunity, this is a wonderful tree to plant. These long-lived, large trees mature at about 25 and can live up to 200 years old. The bark of the cork tree is thick and knobby, growing thicker with age, 

This thick, heavily textured bark is used to make flooring, furniture, and wine corks, among other useful items. The bark can be cut from the tree once every 9-12 years after the tree has matured. Removing the bark does not harm the tree, and the bark will regenerate to be harvested again and again. 

Crape Myrtle

A sweeping view from below to above reveals the grandeur of a Crape myrtle tree, its towering form commanding attention. Stems and branches, adorned with lush leaves, extend gracefully into the sky, creating a natural marvel.
Crape myrtle leaves transform into shades of red, bronze, and gold.
botanical-name botanical name Lagerstroemia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-10

In the South, crape myrtle trees are all the rage in summer with their pretty foliage and huge panicles of colorful flowers. Many of the roads in my city are lined with these wonderful trees, which create a stunning avenue of flowers during summer. The colorful foliage at the end of the season comes in shades of red, bronze, and gold. 

In the first few years, crape myrtle bark is fairly ordinary. It is when the tree matures that it takes on a gorgeous characteristic. The outer gray bark will begin to peel, revealing new, rust-colored bark beneath. This makes the trees beautiful even in winter after their leaves have fallen. 

Eastern Red Cedar

A close-up of Juniperus virginiana unveils clusters of vibrant green berries nestled amidst the foliage. The leaves, a deep shade of green, provide a harmonious backdrop to this striking display of nature's bounty.
This cedar variety boasts fragrant, tough foliage dotted with attractive deep purple berries.
botanical-name botanical name Juniperus virginiana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 80’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-9

Eastern red cedar is actually not a cedar but a juniper species. It is evergreen, although the foliage can change to brown or purple during wintertime. The aromatic foliage is sticky and leathery, and the tree produces beautiful berries that start greenish-blue and gradually turn deep purple in color. You won’t see much of the bark when the tree is small and young.

These large trees grow tall, up to 80 feet tall, to be exact. The bark will be more visible once the tree’s clearance is at eye level. The bark is papery and peels irregularly, revealing new reddish brown bark beneath the pale gray outer bark. A row of these trees makes an excellent windbreak and will grow at a moderate to fast rate of one to two feet per year. 

European Hornbeam

A close-up of the European Hornbeam showcases its bright green leaves, creating a vivid spectacle. The branches, elegantly branching out, enhance the tree's aesthetic appeal, offering a delightful visual experience.
With its dense foliage, European hornbeam is a reliable screen or windbreak.
botanical-name botanical name Carpinus betulus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 40’-60’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-7

This attractive tree grows up to 60’ tall at maturity and has a rounded pyramidal shape. It is a member of the birch family and provides year-round interest with attractive foliage that turns deep green in the summer and gold in the fall. The foliage is dense, making this a good screen or windbreak. 

European hornbeam has very pretty leaves with deep veining and lightly serrated edges. The bark can show off for a few months when the foliage falls. When the tree is young, the bark is smooth and gray. As it ages, it becomes thicker with deep, irregular grooves. 

Gumbo Limbo

A close-up of the Gumbo Limbo tree's branches reveals their intricate structure. Against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, these branches create a captivating contrast, highlighting the beauty of nature's design.
These sizable trees feature expansive branches that create a canopy as broad as their height.
botanical-name botanical name Bursera simaruba
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30’-40’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Gumbo limbo is another tree that won’t necessarily lose its leaves in cold temperatures. It is semi-evergreen, but its stunning bark is eye-catching year-round. The trees are large, with spreading branches that form a canopy as wide as the tree is tall. The shape of the tree resembles a live oak or banyan tree. 

The papery, peeling bark of the gumbo limbo tree is some of the most interesting bark I’ve encountered. The old bark is reddish-orange and peels away in thin layers to reveal smooth, deep green bark below. These trees have a small range of climates where they will thrive, but they are worth the investment if you live in zone 10 or 11

Japanese Stewartia

A close-up of the Japanese Stewartia captures its sturdy stem and gracefully branching limbs. Delicate leaves adorn the branches, adding an element of grace and elegance to this natural masterpiece.
Unlike the evergreen camellia, Japanese stewartia’s foliage turns vividly colorful in the fall.
botanical-name botanical name Stewartia pseudocamellia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30’-40’ 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

This relative of the camellia was named for the Scottish botanist John Stuart. The species name, pseudocamellia, means false-camellia, as the plants strongly resemble each other. Unlike the camellia, Japanese stewartia is not evergreen, and its fall foliage is brightly colored

Japanese stewartia produces pretty white flowers resembling a sasanqua camellia’s blooms. Unlike the camellia, this tree has wonderful peeling bark best displayed in the winter after it has lost its foliage. This is another manageably sized tree that works well in many landscapes. 

Kousa Dogwood

In the garden, a Kousa Dogwood tree stands tall. Its slender stem stretches towards the sky, adorned with delicate white flowers that contrast beautifully with the lush green leaves. The tree is surrounded by a variety of other vibrant flowering plants, creating a picturesque scene.
Year-round, this highly ornamental tree displays white flowers that transition into red fruits.
botanical-name botanical name Cornus kousa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

The Kousa dogwood is a wonderful medium-sized tree with tons of personality. In spring, the tree is covered in sweet, four-petaled white flowers common to the Cornus genus. The green foliage appears before the flowers on this species and turns purple in the fall. 

White flowers give way to red fruits, making this a highly ornamental tree year-round. During winter, Kousa dogwood shows off stunning, peeling bark. There are commonly several layers of bark visible simultaneously. This creates an exciting, multi-colored patchwork of delicate bark layers. 

Monkey Puzzle

A close-up of the intricate beauty of a Monkey Puzzle tree. Its leaves are truly unique, resembling spiky scales that create a visually striking pattern. The texture and geometry of the leaves add a fascinating element to the tree's characte
This leaf arrangement gives the trunk and branches of the monkey puzzle a spiky and playful look.
botanical-name botanical name Araucaria araucana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 60’-80’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-11

This interesting coniferous evergreen has a unique appearance and looks this way all year! The bark of the monkey puzzle tree is interesting because it is completely obscured by tight spirals of small pointed leaves. Because of this fun leaf formation, the trunk and branches all have a spiky appearance. 

Native to South America, the species is known for its longevity and hardiness. The leaves alone can last up to 15 years. In terms of conifers, monkey puzzle makes a very nice bonsai specimen. Trees can grow up to 80 feet tall or taller over their long lifespan. Pruning will encourage branching of a fuller look. 

Paperbark Maple

A close-up of a Paperbark Maple, the slender branches are highlighted against the backdrop of its reddish leaves. The branches twist and turn gracefully, showcasing their elegant structure. The leaves, with their reddish hue, create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
The paperbark maple is known for its striking autumn leaves and general charm.
botanical-name botanical name Acer griseum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 20’-30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Maples are such a beautiful group of trees. They are well known for their stunning fall foliage and overall attractiveness. Paperbark maple is a small to medium-sized tree that does very well in partial shade, making it a nice understory tree. Its soft green leaves change to brilliant, fiery orange in the fall. 

As the tree matures, the bark takes on a papery, peeling characteristic. The older layers of bark are light brown and peel away in large patches to reveal gorgeous cinnamon-colored new bark beneath. The tree has a nice shape, with an upright, branching habit and a rounded canopy. 

‘Red Panda’ Birch

A close-up focuses on the sturdy stem and branches of a Red Panda Birch tree. The stem is robust and textured, while the branches extend outward, providing a sense of strength and resilience. The bark adds an interesting visual dimension to the tree's character.
The ‘Red Panda’ birch’s main attraction, its bark, remains stunning throughout the year.
botanical-name botanical name Betula albasinensis ‘Red Panda’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30’-50’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

The Royal Horticultural Society has seen fit to award this stunning tree with its prestigious Award of Garden Merit, and it’s not surprising. The ‘Red Panda’ birch has some of the most beautiful bark around. This low-maintenance tree offers year-round interest in the garden and makes a wonderful focal point in the landscape. 

Small flowers bloom in the spring, and the green leaves of summer change to gold in the fall. The bark is the main attraction to this tree, and it shows off year-round. In the winter, though, it can be appreciated in all its glory. The bark is coppery to pink, with an abundance of white lenticels. In addition to its pretty color and texture, the bark also has a peeling habit, shedding in large sheets. 

River Birch

A close-up of the River Birch tree reveals its rugged and textured branch with bark. The leaves in the background create a lively green contrast against the clear blue sky, emphasizing the tree's natural beauty and its connection to the sky above.
With its symmetrical and pyramidal shape, River Birch stands out in the landscape.
botanical-name botanical name Betula nigra
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 60’-80’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

River birch is a great tree for moist soil types. It can be seen growing in marshy areas and on riverbanks, as its preference is abundant water. These trees are fairly large and can live for up to 75 years. The shape is nicely symmetrical and pyramidal, with an upright growth habit.

As the river birch matures, its bark takes on a heavy peeling appearance. The older bark is silvery and peels away in curly sheets to reveal shades of peach, salmon, brown, orange, and even lavender. This nice, sturdy tree has good cold and wind tolerance. 

Shagbark Hickory 

The Shagbark Hickory tree takes center stage, displaying its distinctive stem covered in shaggy bark. The stem's texture adds depth and character to the tree, while the vibrant yellow leaves rustle in the gentle breeze, creating a harmonious sight.
Shagbark hickory trees typically live for around 200 years, although some can endure even longer.
botanical-name botanical name Carya ovata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 60’-80’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This tree in the walnut family has very interesting bark. Their trunks are covered in thick, shaggy layers of brown bark that make excellent homes for local wildlife. These tall trees like moist soil and humid climates but are very tolerant of varying temperatures. 

Shagbark hickory produces flowers in the spring. Female flowers produce fruit in the way of hickory nuts, which are appealing to humans and wildlife. Their average lifespan is 200 years, although they can live longer. They begin to produce seeds at around 40 years old. Its fall foliage is lovely when it turns to shades of yellow and gold. 

Silver Birch

In the lush garden, silvery birch trees stand tall. Their slender stems reach upward, and the delicate, yellow leaves shimmer in the dappled sunlight. These graceful trees contribute to the garden's serene and tranquil atmosphere.
The classic silvery-white bark of the silver birch adds to its beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Betula pendula
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 30’-40’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-7

Silver birch trees are beautiful, with slightly weeping branches and shining white bark. A grouping of these trees makes a very elegant statement in the landscape. The small flowers in spring give way to conelike fruits containing many seeds. The foliage is small and toothy and turns from medium green to gold in the fall.

The bark is classic for a birch tree. It is silvery white with black clefts as it matures, making this a beautiful addition to the winter landscape. As the tree ages, the pale bark loses its smooth finish and becomes more rugged near the tree’s base. 

Snake-bark Maple

A close-up of a Snake-bark Maple branch exposes its unique bark. The bark is patterned with dark stripes, resembling the skin of a snake.
With an upright growth habit, snake-bark maple is a sizable tree that produces multiple trunks.
botanical-name botanical name Acer sect. Macrantha
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 60’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Another wonderful maple tree, the snake-bark maple, has some unique traits that set it apart from most maples. The leaves are simple and ovate, which is quite different from the usual maple leaf formation. It prefers to live in climates with cool summers, although it can tolerate warm summers if it has a bit of afternoon shade to protect it from sun scorch.

Snake-bark is a large maple with an upright growth habit and typically has multiple trunks. The fall color is gorgeous in red, gold, and orange shades to set the landscape ablaze. Green, striated bark is what gives this tree its common name, and it is striking in both color and texture. 

Snow Gum

Towering Snow Gum trees dominate the landscape, their large stems proudly displaying their unique bark patterns. Below them, a carpet of green grass thrives, creating a stark contrast with the tree's rugged and textured appearance.
The snow gum thrives in warmer climates and boasts stunning bark.
botanical-name botanical name Eucalyptus pauciflora
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 12’-50’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

This evergreen only grows in warmer climates, but it has amazingly beautiful bark, so I would be remiss to skip over this wonderful species of eucalyptus tree. Commonly called snow gum, this tree can vary widely in its mature height, from as small as 12 feet to as large as 50 feet tall.

Eucalyptus trees have aromatic, pale, greyish-green leaves and produce clusters of attractive white flowers. The bark has a peeling appearance, but it is typically quite smooth. Shades of white, cinnamon, grey, and green swirl around the curling and knotted trunk and branches. 

Tall Stewartia

The Stewartia monadelpha tree branches reach out gracefully, adorned with lush green leaves. Their intricate patterns and textures make them a captivating sight in the garden, adding to their natural charm and beauty.
Tall stewartia has smooth, rusty orange bark that peels away to unveil shades of lavender and cream.
botanical-name botanical name Stewartia monadelpha
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 20’-25’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Similar to Japanese stewartia, tall stewartia is related to and resembles a camellia. This member of the Theaceae family has leathery, deep green leaves with lightly serrated edges. It is very tolerant of different soil conditions and prefers partial shade. The tree is very drought and heat-tolerant as well

Tall stewartia is also known as orangebark stewartia. The rusty orange bark is smooth and exfoliates to reveal shades of lavender and cream beneath. The foliage also has great fall interest, changing to scarlet in autumn. Stewartia trees are native to Japan and commonly found in mountainous forests. 

Tibetan Cherry

A close-up showcases the Tibetan Cherry branches, their bark adorned with a rich red hue. The red bark stands out dramatically against the surrounding branches and leaves, creating a visually striking and vibrant scene in the garden.
The Tibetan cherry has striking red bark adorned with rugged white lenticels in a flamboyant display.
botanical-name botanical name Prunus serrula
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 20’-30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-6

Cherry trees are known for having attractive bark that adds a lovely touch to the winter landscape. Tibetan cherry has flamboyant, red bark heavily banded with rough white lenticels. The red surface of the bark is smooth and glossy, with a satiny sheen that looks just wonderful against a stark winter landscape. 

Tibetan cherry has light and airy foliage with a weeping quality. It produces clusters of small white flowers, which give way to red berries in the fall. It is a low-maintenance tree that matures to a very manageable height of 20-30 feet tall. 

Final Thoughts

Adding one or more interesting and beautiful trees to your garden will enliven the winter landscape, adding beauty and interest during the dormant season. Even if you live in a warm climate where most trees and plants are evergreen, adding a tree with beautiful bark will spice up the landscape and create a wonderful focal point in the garden. 

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