The Biology of Bark Pt.2
The bark of many of our native trees only develops their characteristic shapes and styles as they mature, a little bit like lines on a human face. These characteristics help us tell a little bit more about the trees story and growth habit.
By looking at a human face you can tell if a person has spent a life outside, or inside. Been a smiley person, or a disgruntled person. Even if they’ve been a smoker or a non-smoker. Similarly to us and the lines on our faces, a trees bark can also help tell the story of its life. As a tree develops its bark will strengthen to protect it from attack. From the elements, insects, animals, and other environmental factors, such as damage sustained through physiological damage or manmade damage.
Some trees bark stays smoother than others, and some get more and more fissured as they age. A field maple (Acer campestre) starts to form a corky bark from quite an early age, whereas the sweet chestnut’s (Castanea sativa) bark starts spiralling great furrows, like a badly ploughed field, into its trunk much later in life.
The wych elm (Ulmus glabra) similar to its English cousin, is another tree that turns corky, with narrow ridges, quite early in its life. The secondary perhaps because it knows its life is now sadly short lived.
I hope that these two posts have made you think a little more about the trees that we see all around us? If you have kids, or even if you don’t, taking a sheet of paper and some crayons out on a walk and doing some bark rubbings is a great way of comparing the differences between species of tree found through their bark. Why not choose a tree local to you and do a rubbing of its bark every year, at around the same time each year, and watch how its bark changes as it grows?