Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Its bark is as good as its bright [leaves, that is]

with 17 comments

Escarpment Black Cherry Trunk and Yellow Leaves 9509

In a comment yesterday about the escarpment black cherry, Prunus serotina var. eximia, shoreacres quoted the portion of a Wikipedia article that mentions the distinctive bark a black cherry tree has, depending on its age: “A mature black cherry can easily be identified in a forest by its very broken, dark grey to black bark, which has the appearance of very thick, burnt cornflakes. However, for about the first decade or so of its life, the bark is thin, smooth, and striped, resembling that of a birch.”

Today’s photograph illustrates the second part of that quotation. It also shows once again how pretty the leaves of this tree can be when they turn yellow in the fall. Give some credit to the shadows, too.

Like the previous picture, today’s comes from November 26th at Doeskin Ranch, a nature preserve in Burnet County about an hour from my home in northwest Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2014 at 5:31 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Beautiful shot and clever title. Judging from the bark, I would have been confident (and wrong) in assuming it was a birch tree, but I really don’t know trees at all.

    Mike Powell

    December 10, 2014 at 5:39 AM

    • Speaking of allusions, Mike, you might extend your comment and say: “I’ve looked at bark from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow… I really don’t know trees at all.”

      In my experience (which is from childhood, because birches don’t grow where I am now), the background of birch bark is white, rather than the color you see here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2014 at 6:29 AM

      • I suspected that you would catch my musical reference. As for birches, I don’t see them as often now as when I was growing up in New England, but I also recall now that they were whiter than your tree.

        Mike Powell

        December 10, 2014 at 6:44 AM

        • Well, something’s lost but something’s gained in living away from the Northeast. My rows and flows of angel hair are white now, and they compensate for the birch bark I no longer see.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 10, 2014 at 7:04 AM

  2. Excellent view up into and through this fine example of a black cherry tree, Steve. The color combination is warm and lovely and you have illustrated quite well, not only the bark, but the branch growth pattern as well. Very nice.

    Steve Gingold

    December 10, 2014 at 5:46 AM

    • Thanks, Steve. I liked the upward look but was concerned about getting all of the trunk in focus. To that end, I stopped my lens (the 24–105mm zoomed out to 50mm) down to its smallest aperture of f/22, which kept the widest and most prominent part of the trunk sharp. It couldn’t hold the upper fourth or so, nor some of the leaves at the top, which are soft, but not in a way that spoils the picture for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2014 at 6:45 AM

      • The sharpness is sharp where it counts and the picture works very well. Maybe at the pixel peeping level there might be something to say, but pixel peeping is so yesterday. I think this is excellent.

        Steve Gingold

        December 10, 2014 at 7:39 AM

        • And you have an excellent way of putting it: “pixel peeping is so yesterday.” We’ll ignore Paul McCartney’s sentiment and not long for yesterday.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 10, 2014 at 7:44 AM

  3. ha! the title to the post went right over my sleepy head, and then the page opened – and i smiled! what a great image and an interesting post! linda is tireless with her genuine interest and feedback regarding a wide-range of interests.

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    December 10, 2014 at 6:18 AM

    • Buenos días. Speaking of refranes, you may be familiar with the Spanish version of the English one, “Perro que ladra no muerde,” which some people have found to their sorrow isn’t always true.

      In any case, I’m pleased that when the picture and text finally popped up you liked them. And yes, Linda is a great resource and most thoughtful commenter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2014 at 6:57 AM

  4. Great garden design utilizes bark as a point of interest to create winter interest.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    December 10, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    • So it sounds like you agree that I wasn’t barking up the wrong tree when I composed this photo.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2014 at 11:20 AM

  5. The arrangement of the branches is as nice as the slickness of the bark, or the contrast between leaves and sky. They’re almost umbrella-like. I don’t remember seeing that before, but of course that’s one of the things a good photo does. It allows us to see things in a new way, or notice details that have been there all the time.

    Our poplars were more white than this, too, but they had the same slick bark, and the same kind of striations. I read tonight that pores in the bark stretch as the tree grows, causing the kind of pattern you’ve shown here.


    December 11, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    • I don’t know whether the umbrella-like arrangement of the branches is typical or whether this particular tree just happened to produce radiating branches. In any case, I was fortunate that this tree was open enough around its lower portion for me to get in there and take a picture.

      One thing that I learned in my research is that the horizontal structures in the bark are known as lenticels:


      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2014 at 8:47 PM

      • Yea, for me! I managed to make the jump to “lenticular” before I read the article. Etymology scores again.

        It was an interesting article. I was greatly surprised to see apples included in the discussion. I’ve seen the telltale marks on apples before, but certainly wouldn’t have connected them to poplars.


        December 11, 2014 at 9:12 PM

        • According to the article, lenticels vary in shape from small circles like those in apple skins to long ridges like those in the cherry bark. For me the surprise is that both are examples of the same kind of structure.

          Yes, etymology strikes again. You can add lentil to the group that includes lens and lenticel and lenticular.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 11, 2014 at 10:40 PM

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