It may seem a little weird, when summer seems at last to be arriving, to be considering bark. On the other hand, in my wanderings on the Italian peninsula recently, I found myself photographing as much bark as I did leaves and flowers; and I took advantage of my period of restricted mobility to do virtuous thinks like putting all my bark pictures into one folder.
The truism is to say that the bark is the skin of the tree: yes, to the extent that it is the outer protective surface of the organism. But it is hugely tougher than skin: it is rare that a plant ‘bleeds’ to death from a single wound, and these usually heal readily. Think of the harvest of maple syrup, or rubber, or (most spectacularly) cork, all of which depend on damaging the bark of the tree and relying on it to regrow and heal quickly.
(How kind of Evolution/the Creator to have the foresight to evolve a tree that could be used to stopper the drinkable products of other plants.)
There is an interesting table here of the various sorts of damage done to tree bark in the UK by different animals, from red deer to edible dormice, via the more familiar rabbits and grey squirrels. We must be thankful that we do not have native porcupines, as this is what they get up to.
There are of course scientific explanations for the enormously varied appearance of the bark of different tree species – whether protection from weather extremes, animal attack or disease prevention. Can ornamental trees can be bred for bark? Or are the various cultivars of e.g. Betula utilis jacquemontii (Snow Queen, Graywood Ghost, etc.) clones rather than grown from seed?
Anyway, here are just a few of the remarkable barks I’ve seen recently, out of an endless variety of forms!