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Orange Bark

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
January 17, 2017

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Orange Bark

Yesterday, my wife (a botanist; how could it be otherwise?) and I were wandering the Arnold Arboretum. As we came down from the top of Bussey Hill towards the birches and elms, we were wonderfully surprised to see a Chinese zelkova tree (Zelkova sinica 288-80*A; map here) putting on a real show (of course, for no one’s benefit but its own) of bark exfoliation revealing inner orange bark.

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All trees shed bark regularly over time, but smooth-barked trees often do so in dramatic fashion (think lacebark pine, sycamore or plane tree). The older grey bark here is being shed in puzzle-piece-shaped patches (look down on the ground to find them). The newly exposed orange bark will eventually fade to grey. Close inspection will also reveal a bit of a green tinge under the orange – you are seeing chlorophyll. (To learn more about photosynthesizing bark, head over to my Post from the Collections March 5, 2016).

In the meantime, this is a perfect destination for a cold winter’s day. And if we are lucky enough to get some serious snow soon, this tree (and the other four Chinese zelkova trees at the Arboretum) should be even more dazzling.

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