Tree Bark Identification

An easy way to identify different types of trees is by looking at tree bark! To identify a tree, look at the color and surface texture of its bark. Learn about the various species of bark below and how to do a tree bark rubbing. 

Download our free (and beautiful) tree bark poster and matching game for kids!

How to Identify Trees by Their Bark

  • Beech bark is light gray with a smooth surface.
  • Cherry trees are shiny and brown or gray colored with reddish-brown deep grooves that resemble tiger stripes.
  • Aspen bark is a green-white (a result of the chlorophyll) and also has dark, diamond-shaped openings.
  • Silver birch bark is shiny with a white, paperlike outer layer that easily peels off the trunk.
  • Hickory trees are gray and flaky with ridges in their texture.

  • Scotch pine bark is generally noted as thick and grayish or reddish around the base of the tree, gradually becoming more orange and flaky toward the top. 
  • Ash bark is smooth and pale gray in saplings, with mature trees having diamond shapes.
  • Oak bark can be a light gray to a near-black color. It has deep fissures and ridges, giving it a scaly look.
  • Sycamore bark is thin and flaky. It looks camouflaged because of its mottled appearance. 
  • Sequoia bark varies based on the tree’s age. It begins as a gray (even purplish) color and then becomes a reddish-brown color as the tree ages.The bark is soft and has long, vertical plates. 

Tree Bark Rubbing

Bark rubbing is a fun and simple activity that reveals the textures and patterns of a tree’s surface. As your child completes this activity, they will see the detailed characteristics of the tree’s bark, such as grooves and ridges. 

It’s fun to connect with nature while experiencing a new art technique!  


  • Crayons with the paper peeled off (jumbo sized works best for small hands)
  • Copy paper
  • Push pins or tape (optional)


  1. Hold a piece of paper (or pin/tape) against the bark of a tree. 
  2. Use the side (not the tip) of the crayon to rub over the paper. 
  3. Repeat this process with different parts of the same tree trunk or more than one tree.

Discuss and reflect

  • What stands out to you, or what do you notice in your tree rubbings? 
  • How are the barks the same or different? 
  • Looking at your tree rubbings. Does the bark appear smooth or rough? 
  • Did you get different patterns and textures from the same tree, or did the pattern remain the same?

Don’t forget to download our tree bark poster and fun matching game—perfect to take with you as you explore the many amazing trees in our world! 

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  • Jessica Tanner

    This is wonderful! Thank you for creating and sharing this resource. I’ve been wanting to help my kids learn how to identify more plants & trees, so I’m excited to have this!