For at least several months each year most deciduous trees–those that shed their leaves in the fall–have no foliage at all. Because the bark of these trees is perhaps more visible during the winter months, plan your landscape to include trees with attractive barks, shapes, and forms.
Let’s consider a few trees for winter appeal in North Florida landscapes.
Gary Knox, University of Florida Extension Horticulture Specialist describes the crape myrtle’s winter interest in his publication, “Crape Myrtle in Florida.” Knox writes, “When the leaves fall in winter, the crape myrtle becomes a living sculpture. The trunk and branches of tree-form plants have an attractively gnarled, sinuous character with smooth bark. Strips of bark peel off (exfoliate) in early summer to reveal mottle new bark ranging in color from pale cream to dark cinnamon to rich brown to bright orange.”
Many crape myrtles have exfoliating bark. Following are some crape myrtles with attractive bark. ‘Acoma’ is an outstanding hybrid reaching a mature height of around 10 to 15 feet that has creamy beige bark color and snow white flowers. ‘Apalachee’ is another outstanding selection with cinnamon orange bark and light lavender flowers. Its mature height is around 20 feet. The cultivar ‘Osage’ produces dark orange bark color and medium pink flowers with a 20-foot mature height. ‘Fantasy’ is a large maturing variety growing to more than 20 feet tall with outstanding red orange bark and white flowers. You’ll find more crape myrtles listed in Knox’s publication available at http://eddis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG266.
Betula nigra or River birch has unusual papery peeling bark. The cultivar ‘Heritage’ is the closest to a paper white birch that will tolerate our hot summers. Expect a river birch to reach 40 to 50 feet in height and 25 to 35 feet in width.
Ulmus parvifolia or Chinese elm provides winter interest with its showy, exfoliating bark that reveals mottled patterns of gray, green, orange and brown. ‘Drake’ and ‘Allee’ are two popular cultivars of the Chinese elm.
Ostrya virginiana or American Hophornbeam, is an underused tree that grows to about 50 feet in height. Its grayish bark peels off in longitudinal strips revealing orange patches underneath.
Acer buergeranum or trident maple is a nice small, underused and hard to find tree. It usually is seen with multiple stems originating fairly low on the trunk giving the small tree a bushy appearance. It has noticeable orange-brown peeling bark.
For additional information on trees for Northwest Florida, contact your local extension office, county forester or local nursery.