Contributed by Thom Mrazik, Morris Arboretum Volunteer and Penn State Master Gardener

Stewartia monadelpha (tall stewartia)

You’ll fall in love with the stewartia in the “Bark Park” at the Morris Arboretum. Let me say right away, this isn't a dog park—so no dogs here. And, stewartia isn’t my dog’s fancy name. My cat is named Oliver Dunbar, and while he sometimes acts like a dog, he never barks.  

If you want to discover uniquely interesting specimens of living tree bark, then the “Bark Park” is a must stop. The “park” is a small enclave of specialty trees in the English Park section of the Arboretum. Bark is the outermost layers of branches and stems on trees and woody shrubs. And, for some trees, it is the most striking feature.

Most trees’ ornamental features last only a single season—spring flowers, summertime leaves, and fall color changes and fruit.  In contrast, bark is out in full view year round.  Here, visitors can observe bark’s best—color, texture, and patterns. And, since deciduous trees are without leaves for about six months, the bark is so much easier to see and touch.


Stewartia pseudocamellia  (Japanese stewartia)

How does stewartia fit in? Stewartia is a small to medium-sized, deciduous tree, related to flowering camellia and franklinia trees. Stewartia is notable because of its showy single white flowers, colorful fall leaves and especially, for its’ richly colored, smooth bark on mature specimens.  

In my opinion, stewartia is an enticing visual treat. You will find outstanding displays in the park: Stewartia pseudocamellia  (Japanese stewartia) shows smooth oval patches of orangish-brown, soft gray and brown colors intermingled on the same tree. Stewartia monadelpha (tall stewartia) shows both scaly and smooth areas colored cinnamon brown.