adapted from Woody Plants of the Blue Ridge by Ron Lance. Used by permission.

To see photographic examples of a term, click the camera next to it in the list of botanical terms.


The texture and appearance of bark is characteristic for many species, but the essence of its recognition is best acquired by visual experience and not by written description.

Three general types of bark texture can be summarized for most of our woody plants:
smooth, papery, and rough.

Smooth bark:

Surface relatively unbroken, usually thin (ex. beech, ailanthus).

  • Fluted — sinewy or wavy profile (as in hornbeam).
  • Striated — striped or lined (as in striped maple).
  • Mottled — particolored. Can be slightly scaly with thin, close scales (as in sycamore).
  • Lenticellate — marked by numerous raised lenticels (as in spicebush). Lenticels may be horizontally elongated (as in cherry).

Papery bark:

Basically smooth but with peeling or shreddy outer layers, sometimes a thick accumulation. Also referred to as "peeling" or "shreddy" bark (ex. paper birch and river birch).

  • Exfoliating bark — Shedding in thin layers; usually applied to small-diameter stems (as in honeysuckle).

Rough bark:

Thick or hardened, roughened surface.

  • Warty — raised excrescences, with intermediate areas smooth (as in hackberry).
  • Scaly — flat-topped, brittle plates which are free or curling on edges. Of three general patterns:
  • Furrowed — surface wrinkled or broken by furrows and thickened ridges or plates.
    • Plates — flat-topped ridges, shortened or broken horizontally, as in shortleaf pine.
    • Blocky — thick, squarish plates as in persimmon.
    • Ridged — elongated ridges and furrows:
      • Regular pattern — orderly and interlacing, as in ash.
      • Irregular pattern — ridges vary, often broken irregularly, as in red oak.