13 Trees with Smooth Bark

13 Trees with Smooth Bark

Tree barks are the most prominent part of the tree and they vary in texture. Some are smooth, making it difficult for predators and parasites to penetrate the tree.

Trees with smooth bark have white paper-thin and onion-like layers that prevent insects and pests to grip the surface and penetrate the tree. They thrive in damp and tropical environments where pests usually grow. 

Since no one wants to be “barking” up the wrong tree, here is a comprehensive guide to some popular trees with smooth bark in case you happen to actually have one in your garden.

13 Trees with Smooth Bark

1. Birch Tree

Birch Tree
Image: Mossy Oak
Scientific NameBetula pendula
GenusBetulaceae
BarkSmooth white paper-like texture with dark horizontal streaks
Peels in narrow strips
BranchesSlim, Conical, and Arching
Leaves2-3 inches long Ovular, Triangular with Pointed TipsSerrated edges.
Fall FoliageTurns from medium green to warm yellow, orange, and red tones
HeightCan grow up to 70 feet tall with canopies up to 60 feet wide

Birch trees are deciduous trees native to North America. They thrive in temperate climates of woodlands, riverbanks, and mountainsides. 

Birch tree bark contains “lenticels,” the dark horizontal streaks that aid in the exchange of gas from the internal tissues of the tree to the external environment. 

The bark of birch trees has a smooth white paper-like texture. These naturally peel to shed away fungus, moss, and lichen that grow on it. 

Another distinct feature is the leaves of a birch tree, which are either oval or triangular with pointed tips and serrated margins. They are alternately arranged on their branches, changing colors seasonally in shades of red, orange, or yellow.

Birch trees also produce “catkins,” which are cylindrical flower clusters that blossom during the spring season.

These trees can grow up to 70 feet tall with canopies up to 60 feet wide. 

Apart from being a food source, birch tree bark is largely used for pharmaceuticals. It contains betulinic acid which is an organic ingredient in making painkillers. 

2. Aspen Tree

Aspen Tree
Image: Shetzers
Scientific NamePopulus tremuloides
GenusPopulus
BarkSmooth
Pale to greenish gray color
Diamond-shapes lenticels
BranchesSlender
Top branches bend horizontally
LeavesRound shaped with serrated edges
0.9 to 2 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns from deep green to yellow or red shade
HeightReaches 20 to 80 feet high

Aspen trees are native to cold-climate areas in the northern hemisphere such as Alaska and Canada. They grow up to 80 feet tall and 30 feet wide. 

Aspen trees have straight, long and smooth trunks. The barks of aspen trees usually begin with green or yellow hues and then, later on, a silver hue. 

The green hues present in the bark come from chlorophyll, making its bark photosynthetic.

Another key feature of an aspen tree is its flowers and seeds, which form into a ball of cotton wool that is released once the catkin pods are opened. 

The bark of aspen trees also serves as food for butterflies, moose, and other insects and animals. 

3. Beech Tree

Beech Tree
Image: Adirondack Almanack
Scientific NameFagus grandifolia
GenusFagaceae 
BarkSmooth with shallow ridges forming horizontally
BranchesPyramid habit with a single trunk
LeavesElliptical leaves with pointed tips and parallel veins6 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns from dark green to yellow, orange, copper shades
HeightGrows from 60 to 80 feet high

Beech trees are another example of deciduous trees that grow in temperate climates. They are found in Asia, Europe, and North America.

The bark of a beech tree is smooth and light gray, and it stays like this even as it grows old. They can expand up to 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide. 

Beech tree leaves have an elliptical shape and toothed leaf margins and are arranged alternately on their branches.

However, the American beech tree is prone to be infected with the naginata fungus, which leads to the beech bark disease. This occurs when insects feed on the outer bark, which reduces the natural immunity of the tree against fungus and insect attacks. 

Beech tree bark can also be used as a treatment for skin diseases and as an antiseptic. 

4. Paperbark Maple Tree

Paperbark Maple Tree
Image: Gardenia
Scientific NameAcer griseum
GenusAcer
BarkSmooth bark Chesnut-brown, orange or cinnamon in color
Peels in paper curls exposing a rose or tan bark underneath
BranchesRounded, slender and upward growing
LeavesThree-lobed with toothed edgesBluish-green underside3 to 6 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns to red or orange shade
HeightGrows from 20 up to 30 feet high

Paperbark maple trees are usually found in the moist and sheltered environment of Chinese provinces like Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan, Gansu, Henan, Hubei, and Hunan. They grow from 20 to 30 feet tall. 

The bark of a paperbark maple tree can either be brown, cinnamon, or orange. It peels in paper curls that show the rose-colored bark beneath it. 

Paperbark maple leaves, on the other hand, are three-lobed with toothed edges and a blue-green undertone. 

5. Japanese Stewartia Tree

Japanese Stewartia Tree
Image: Bartlettar Boretum
Scientific NameStewartia pseudocamellia
GenusStewartia
BarkPale gray in color
Exposes underlying charcoal gray, reddish brown and orange shape patchwork after exfoliation in the fall
BranchesAiry, pyramid habit
Semi-weeping branches
LeavesDark green with oval shape and pointed tips
2 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns to burgundy, orange, red hues
HeightGrows around 12 to 40 feet high

Japanese stewartias are small deciduous trees that grow in moist and shaded woodlands or mountain regions of the Japanese and Korean peninsula. They can grow up to 40 feet tall. 

The bark of a Japanese stewartia tree is gray. The inner bark remains smooth through regular exfoliation.

It sheds in the fall, which exposes the underlying patterns of gray, brown, and orange patches underneath. 

Japanese stewartia tree leaves are oval with pointed tips usually 2 inches long. In early summer, they produce cup-shaped flowers with five white petals and yellow anthers. 

6. Japanese Clethra Tree

Japanese Clethra Tree
Image: North Carolina Plant Toolbox
Scientific NameClethra barbinervis
GenusClethra
BarkSmooth, shiny bark Grayish-brown or cinnamon in color
Exposes patchwork of salmon pink, lavender, cream, and gray after exfoliation in winter
BranchesSoft, triangular habit
Upright branches
LeavesGlossy, oval leaves with fine-toothed edges
2 to 6 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns to bright golden yellow or red hues 
HeightGrows from 9 to 20 feet tall

Japanese clethra trees are usually found in high-altitude places, mountain forests, and wood hills of eastern Asia. They can grow from 9 to 20 feet tall. 

The smooth bark of a Japanese clethra tree is grayish-brown in color. 

It also exfoliates naturally during winter which exposes the underlying patches in pink, gray, cream, and lavender colors. 

As they bloom in the summer, Japanese clethra trees produce a long white and fragrant flowers in horizontal clusters. 

7. Hornbeam Tree

Hornbeam Tree
Image: Heartwood
Scientific NameCarpinus betulus
GenusCarpinus
BarkBluish gray in color
Develops vertical deep furrows and flared ridges
BranchesShort trunk 
Slightly-crooked branches
Oval-shaped canopies
LeavesRidged veins and serrated edges
2 to 4 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns from dark green to golden yellow, red or orange leaves
HeightGrows between 20 to 30 feet long

Hornbeam trees usually grow in the forest and woodland areas of eastern United States and southern Canada. They have dense canopies, with a short trunk that resembles crooked branches. 

The bark of a Hornbeam Tree begins with a grayish-brown color and turns into bluish gray as it matures. It also develops vertical flared ridges and deep furrows. 

Hornbeam trees grow up to 20 to 30 feet tall and produce pendulous green or reddish-brown flower spike clusters.

8. Mexican Sycamore Tree

Mexican Sycamore Tree
Image: Nicolas Rivard on San Antonio Report
Scientific NamePlatanus mexicana
GenusPlantanus
BarkBegins in light brown or white color
Exposes a light cream patchwork after it exfoliates
BranchesRound, bushy habit
Stout trunk base, around 2 meters in diameter
LeavesOlive green with silver underside leaves
8-inch wide
Resembles the shape of the Canadian maple leaf
Fall FoliageTurns to golden yellow leaves in the fall
HeightGrows around 40 to 80 feet tall

Mexican sycamores are a type of deciduous tree, native to the tropical forests and streams of northeastern and central Mexico.

The bark of Mexican Sycamore trees is light brown to white. Once the tree matures, it peels away in patchwork strips and exposes the light-cream layer underneath.

Mexican Sycamore trees have trunk bases, usually around 2 meters in diameter but can expand up to 30 feet wide. 

They tend to grow from 40 to 80 feet tall and produce green flowers that dangle on their branches.

They have wide olive green leaves with silver undersides that resemble the shape of the  Canadian maple leaf.

9. Eucalyptus Tree

Eucalyptus Tree
Image: Flickr
Scientific NameEucalyptus sheathiana
GenusEucalyptus
BarkLight gray or white in color
Peels off in ribbon curls
Has orange, tan or white layers underneath
BranchesSingle trunk with steep branches
Crown canopy creating an airy shape
LeavesNarrow, lance-shaped leaves
Fall FoliageLeaves turn to copper, burgundy or purple in the fall or winter
HeightGrows from 9 up to 49 feet high

Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia. Its leaves are known as koala bear snacks, while its leaves possess the scent of eucalyptus oil. 

From the diverse species of Eucalyptus trees, the ghost gum, spinning gum, white gum, and spinning gum trees all stand out for having smooth bone-white barks. 

From their name, these Eucalyptus tree variations produce gum from their bark. 

Eucalyptus trees of this kind also shed long ribbon curls annually. This natural process called “exfoliating bark” enables the Eucalyptus tree to cleanse itself from the parasites, fungi, or moss that grow on its bark. 

With the loss of these parasites through peeling, the tree can facilitate the process of photosynthesis and allow for more light to the tree to increase its lifespan.

10. Desert Ironwood Tree

Desert Ironwood Tree
Image: Desert Museum
Scientific NameOlneya tesota
GenusFabaceae
BarkSmooth, iron-gray in color
Develops fissures that grow horizontally
BranchesMulti-trunk habit
Wide-spreading branches
Canopies reach up to 30 feet
LeavesEach finger of the foliage holds small rounded leaves0.7 to 2.5 centimeters in diameter
Fall FoliageTurns to gray-green in color with tiny sharp hairs 
HeightGrows from 20 to 50 feet tall

The Desert Ironwood tree is unique to the Sonoran desert. 

The bark of the Desert Ironwood tree is smooth in gray color. Its bark would gradually develop horizontal fissures where sharp horns sprout. 

It is believed to be one of the oldest living trees in the world. Desert Ironwood trees can live up to 1,600 years due to the fissures in their bark that naturally crack as the tree grows.

Looking at its bark color, one can easily tell if an Ironwood tree is old when its bark turns to a brownish-gray tint.

Desert Ironwood trees are easily recognizable due to their elliptical leaves and white and purple colored flowers. 

Its wood has an extremely high density, making it one of the heaviest in the world. Iron Wood is regularly used for buildings and firewood.

Desert Ironwood trees are also called nurse plants as they protect cacti and other plants from the sun and frost.

Desert Ironwood bark has also been used to help cope with vomiting while its flowers are utilized for anti-inflammatory purposes and for curing hemorrhoids.

11. Ash Tree

Ash Tree
Image: Paul Kirtley
Scientific NameFraxinus americana
GenusFraxinus
BarkGrayish-brown with deep fissures and ridges vertically
Branches1-meter wide trunk
Oval habit
Branches and shoots are curved with an upward growth
LeavesDeep green in color with oval, toothed edges
8 to 12 inches long
Fall FoliageTurns to golden yellow leaves in the fall
HeightGrows around 30 to 50 feet tall

Ash trees are native to the woodlands and streams of eastern United States. They can grow from 30 to 50 feet high.

The bark of an Ash tree begins with smooth and pale gray color. As it ages, fissures, ridges, knots, and lumps appear vertically along the tree, and the bark turns grayish-brown.

Ash trees produce clusters of feathery white and purple flowers when it reaches around 30 years old.

Ash trees are vital to wildlife as they provided food and shelter to squirrels, turkey, and even mice. 

12. Red Maple Tree

Red Maple Tree
Image: Brandeis
Scientific NameAcer rubrum
GenusAcer
BarkSmooth, pale gray bark
Develops vertical ridges
BranchesPyramid-like habit that turns into a rounded canopy
Twigs are green and glossy
LeavesClassic maple leaf shape with five lobes
2 to 5 inches wide
Fall FoliageTurns to bright burgundy, red, orange or yellow in the fall
HeightGrows from 60 to 90 feet tall

Red maple trees grow in the dry ridges, swamplands and deciduous forests of Asia, Europe, northern Africa, and North America. They grow between 60 to 90 feet high. 

The bark of Red Maple trees starts with a smooth and pale gray color. 

Its bark is splintered into plate formations, making it easy to spot the age of a red maple tree. They, later on, develop rough vertical ridges that peel off the rough flakes. 

Unfortunately, they lose their smooth texture over time. Older red maple trees usually have a darker color and rougher bark due to the cracks.

They produce dense clusters of golden red flowers and wide leaves with five lobes in the classic maple leaf shape.

Red maple bark is used as an analgesic, for the treatment of eye cataracts and even diarrhea.

13. Plane Trees

Plane Trees
Image: Stuytown
Scientific NamePlantanus acerifolia
GenusPlatanacaea
BarkSmooth light brown bark
Peels off to patches of white, gray, brown and tan underneath
BranchesUpright stem with broad-spreading branches
LeavesPalmate and lobed shaped 
Toothed edges with prominent veins
10 to 25 centimeters across
Fall FoliageTurns to yellow-brown hues in the fall
HeightGros from 98 to 164 feet high

Plane trees are found in North America, Asia, and East Europe. 

Common examples of plane trees are the Oriental plane, London plane, Western sycamore, and American sycamore trees.

The smooth bark of the plane tree is known for its camouflage expression. Its smooth bark peels its white, gray, and brown patches to expose the underneath layers. 

Plane trees grow from 98 to 164 feet tall. They increase in height by several feet a year, making them one of the fastest-growing trees in the world. 

Due to its fast-growing characteristic, the plane trees’ bark peels as it grows taller and its layers continue to thicken.

Plane tree leaves are either three-lobed or five-lobed with toothed edges. 

On the other hand, American sycamore trees are known for their seed balls. The tree produces a ball-shaped cluster of seeds that drop on the ground during the spring season.  

Sycamore tree bark has been used to make teas for treating colds, coughs, and tuberculosis.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of smooth bark?

A smooth bark pertains to the flat, paper-thin, and onion-like bark that covers the tree. They usually grow in damp and tropical environments and protect trees from insect and pest infestation.

Why do plants have smooth bark?

Plants have smooth bark as an anatomical defense against pests, insects, and epiphytes that grip and penetrate the tree. Smooth bark also helps water flow down the roots easily such as in rainforest trees. 

What are the different types of tree barks?

Here are 7 common tree barks and examples:

Peeling in curvy horizontal strips – Birch, River birch (Betula nigra), Yellow birch, and American sycamore trees
Visible lenticels – Big tooth aspen and Black birch trees.
Smooth barks – Red maple and Beech trees
Vertical cracks – Hickory, Scarlet oak, and Shagbark hickory trees
Vertical strips – Pignut hickory and mature Shagbark hickory trees
Broken into plates or scales – Black cherry trees
Ridges and furrows –Pitch pine and Northern red oak trees.

Why is bark not smooth?

The bark of a tree becomes rough due to the pressure caused by growth such as the breaking and tearing off its exterior layer. It also becomes rough due to harsh wind, rain, and other environmental conditions. 

Why do rainforest trees have smooth barks?

The barks of rainforest trees are smooth to prevent the growth of parasites, fungi, and other plants on the bark. 
Unlike thick barks in temperate forests, moisture and humidity are not a problem in rainforests so most trees that grow have thin and smooth barks. 

Conclusion

Image: University of New Hampshire

Smooth barks are a vital line of defense of trees against pests and harsh environmental conditions. 

With this guide, you can now appreciate the distinct features of various smooth bark trees and easily identify them. Feel free to share with us photos of the smooth bark trees that you will see in the future!

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