Now this post may be of very little interest to many, but it’s something that I’ve always noticed and which always captivates me, and I find it a bit of fun to write about. It’s a feature of nature that we see all the time, but it often just doesn’t register, unless it’s quite dramatic or pointed out. So following on from some earlier articles about trees, there’s an aspect that is unique when it comes to trees and that’s their essential integument, the bark.
Every tree exhibits different bark and even if we were considering exactly the same trees, invariably, the bark would be different from one to another, somewhat like fingerprints differing from person to person. Sometimes the differences are not so obvious, but at other times the differences can be quite dramatic; every tree provides a different picture.
Some, like the Plane trees, have relatively fine bark (and probably provided inspiration to many a military camouflage pattern) but other trees have very coarse, rough and deep set bark, somewhat like the Ents from Lord of the Rings.
Even on the same tree, different parts of the tree can exhibit different characteristics. Even Oak tress differ in style, character and texture, and with the Cork Oak the bark has a texture and consistency exactly like cork that you find used in wine bottles.
The Silver Birch is a tree usually found in the colder climes such as Europe and North America, but it thrives in Gippsland and other areas of Victoria where the climate is cooler and wetter. The bark is papery and thin, with a fine, silky, texture. Walhalla has some of the largest Silver Birches that I’ve ever encountered.
And then bark can often become home to other life as well, which use it as a base for their own existence. Mosses and lichens are classic examples of other plant life taking up residence on tree bark.
Even in death, the bark can retain memories of what it was, as well as the other plants that clung to life on the tree when it thrived.
And sometimes, even the trees shed tears.
We live in an area where we have an abundant variety of trees, many a result of early European settlers bringing trees from their homelands to Australia, with not quite the effect that foxes and rabbits have had on our landscape. I must admit that I have a very soft spot for European trees, as they provide cool shade in the summer and allow the sun to provide warmth in winter. They may also create a lot of leaf litter come autumn, but it’s nothing compared to the year round rubbish that native trees produce. Next time I’m in the High Country, I’ll try and see if I can get photographs of some of the more interesting gum trees.