How to identify a tree by its bark

Use our handy tree bark identification guide to tell the difference between our most common UK trees.

Ash tree bark

All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole




Ash tree bark Fraxinus excelsior (above)

Ash tree bark is smooth and pale grey in saplings. With age, the bark develops shallow grooves, deep fissures and bosses.


Wild cherry tree bark Prunus avium

Wild cherry tree bark

Wild cherry tree bark is shiny and maroon, with ‘tiger’ stripes; often also deep grooves and lenticel strips. Old bark peels off in ribbons.


Pedunculate oak tree bark Quercus robur

Pedunculate oak tree bark

Pedunculate oak tree bark is grey-brown, but often dusted in algae. Old trees become craggy, with regular deep grooves, wider at base.


Aspen tree bark Populus tremula

Aspen tree bark

Aspen tree bark is pale grey or off-white, with dark, diamond-shaped lenticels that fuse into channels as the tree ages.


Elder tree bark Sambucus nigra

Elder tree bark

Elder tree bark is greyish-brown, crossed with deep, corky ridges. This large shrub usually has some leafy buds in winter.


Small-leaved lime tree bark Tilia cordata

Small-leaved lime tree bark

Small-leaved lime tree bark is smooth and grey in saplings; more grooved with age. Great spotted woodpeckers drill holes to suck sap.


Crack willow tree bark Salix fragilis

Crack willow tree bark

Crack willow tree bark is brown and crisscrossed with deep ridges; twigs olive-green and brittle. Older trees are often pollarded.


Black poplar tree bark Populus nigra

Black poplar tree bark

Black polar tree bark has deep fissures and large bosses when mature. Similar to cultivated poplars, but with arched, decurved branches.


Beech tree bark Fagus sylvatica

Beech tree bark

Beech tree bark is smooth and grey, with bosses and lumps as tree ages. Often carved with graffiti (not good for the tree).


Silver birch tree bark Betula pendula

Silver birch tree bark

Silver birch tree bark is shiny and purple-chestnut in saplings. With age, turns silver-white, with large black lenticel grooves and bosses.


Downy birch tree bark Betula pubescens

Downy birch tree bark

Downy birch tree bark is whitish with grey smudges and black grooves, but usually duller than silver birch. Twigs have tiny hairs.


Scots pine tree bark Pinus sylvestris

Scots pine tree bark

Scots pine tree bark is pinkish-red with shallow grooves, deeper with age; the bark cracks into small plates or scales. This is our only native pine.