There's plenty of good reasons to add a tree or two to your property, and there are many different types of trees that you might be considering for your home.
The next time you take a walk or a drive around your area, take careful note of the color of the bark of each tree you pass. Most of them have brown, woody bark, but a select few varieties are blessed with bark that reflects the light, appearing a brilliant white on sunny days.
These white bark trees are more common than you might think, and their distinctive appearance makes them highly sought-after by homeowners.
Why Do Some Trees Have White Bark?
White bark on trees is a biological adaptation that protects against sun damage. Darker trees will collect heat faster when illuminated by the sun, while lighter trees will reflect the sunlight with their white bark. Too much heat from sunlight can actually damage trees — especially those in colder growing zones — by way of a phenomenon called sunscald.
As a result, some trees, like the River Birch, have adapted over time to have white bark, a side effect of which is looking great on a residential property as complements to evergreen trees or standing on their own.
The Best White Bark Trees
There are many different types of trees with white bark to choose from. However, not every tree is a good fit for every climate, and if you try to transplant a tree in the wrong growing zone it may not last.
1. Birch Trees
Birch trees are some of the most common trees with white bark that you're likely to see. They're extremely resilient and look great during all four seasons. These trees, belonging to the Betula family, thrive in the Northern hemisphere, most notably in North America, Europe, and Asia.
The birch tree with the whitest bark is the aptly named White Birch.
It's resistant to many blights and illnesses but prefers cooler climates than most other birch trees. For example, while other varieties of birch grow well in zones 4 to 9, the white birch — also called the "Paper Birch" due to the way its bark peels off in sheets — survives best in zones 2 through 6.
River Birch Trees are another type of birch with white bark, although they're not as bright as White Birch trees.
This is especially true of the Heritage River Birch, which has white bark under a darker outer layer that can shed in certain conditions. Preferred by homeowners in areas with a warmer climate, River Birch trees thrive in a higher range of hardiness zones.
Depending on the type of birch tree you're looking for, you can expect them to grow around 1.5 feet per year, reaching a height of 30 to 40 feet tall after 20 years.
2. Poplar Trees
Trees of the family Populus are also known for their white bark, though not as well or as broadly as birch trees.
The poplar tree with the whitest bark is the White or Silver Poplar.
It can be distinguished from the white birch fairly easily, even if you can't tell the difference in leaves. The White Birch has brilliant, white bark that peels in bands, while the White Poplar is actually a bit of a misnomer — while it appears to be white, it's more like a silvery gray color and is tighter on the trunk. White Poplars are extremely common in North America, although they have invasive traits, so make sure you do your research before shopping for a poplar tree.
White and Hybrid Poplars are commonly sought after for the width of their canopy, which makes them excellent shade trees. Adding a shade tree to your property can create the ideal environment for staying cool during the summer.
Although it’s rarely considered a true Poplar, the Quaking Aspen is a unique tree known for its snow white bark.
Iconic in the Rocky Mountains (and the ski town with the same name), the Quaking Aspen is said to quake due to the slight flutter of its leaves in even the mildest breeze. Some Aspen Trees do have brilliant white bark during parts of the year and, during the fall, they're well known for their leaves, which turn a striking, bright yellow. Ultimately, however, they're not the best choice for residential homeowners, as they don't live as long as other trees. Most Quaking Aspens have a shorter growth cycle and only tend to live for an average of 20 years.
3. Sycamore Trees
By far the largest tree on this list, the American Sycamore (a member of the Platanus family) is a resilient tree, able to be planted anywhere in zones 4 through 9, and is known for its striking bark at various times throughout the year. Sycamore trees start the spring with darker bark that slowly sheds over the course of the year to reveal grayish-white bark underneath. Most Sycamore Trees never lose all of their outer bark resulting in a unique "mosaic" look of light and dark bark.
Sycamores top out at around 90 feet high and are resistant to a range of disease and contamination, which makes them a popular choice for suburban and residential streets.
4. Gum or Eucalyptus Trees
The Ghost Gum and its close cousins of the Eucalyptus family are very unique trees, looking more at home in a desert or grassland than a residential yard. This is only fitting considering that they are native to the Australian outback.
With that in mind, homeowners in extremely tropical parts of the U.S. may be able to enjoy the beauty of these trees. The reason we're calling out the Ghost Gum is because of the especially attractive appearance of its bark — from a distance, its pinkish-white hue looks smooth and uninterrupted, almost like a drawing of a tree rather than a real one.
The Benefits of White Bark Trees
Choosing a tree with white bark depends greatly on the climate where you live. People in the American midwest won't be able to support a gum tree in the same way that people living in South Florida will have a hard time with a White Birch.
With this in mind, whether you're looking for a smooth bark tree or a rough one, a white tree with peeling bark or one that's a little easier on the lawn, you can't go wrong with any on this list.
Still searching for the right tree for you? Be sure to check out the variety of white bark trees we offer at Fast Growing Trees.