Daily Picture Show

The World's Most Beautiful Bark (Or: Trees Worth A Closer Look)

Photographer Cedric Pollet travels the world, barking up trees for a living. Like this peeling orange-red madrone found on the west coast of North America:

The orange-red bark of a Madrone evergreen tree

The orange-red bark of a madrone evergreen tree, found on the west coast of North America, peels away on mature wood. Beneath is a smooth, green layer. Cedric Pollet/cedric-pollet.com hide caption

itoggle caption Cedric Pollet/cedric-pollet.com

Or this manzanita, a small evergreen from California:

This type of manzanita grows in the San Luis Obispo region of California

This type of manzanita grows in the San Luis Obispo region of California. Its reddish-purple bark starts to peel in early summer. Cedric Pollet/cedric-pollet.com hide caption

itoggle caption Cedric Pollet/cedric-pollet.com

Or this rainbow eucalyptus located in the Philippines:

The Mindanoan gum (or rainbow eucalyptus), located in the Philippines

The Mindanoan gum (or rainbow eucalyptus) is located in the Philippines. Layers of bark peel away throughout its growing seasons and in the Philippines, the bark is used as a traditional remedy to combat fatigue. Cedric Pollet/cedric-pollet.com hide caption

itoggle caption Cedric Pollet/cedric-pollet.com

In fact, if Pollet had to pick a favorite tree, it would be eucalyptus. There are more than 700 species worldwide, he explained in an email. And if we're qualifying by most colorful bark, rainbow eucalyptus is "the world champion." In his words, "it's just fantastic."

Quite honestly, I don't think I've ever heard someone describe bark as "fantastic." But Pollet is on a crusade against that reigning notion that bark is boring. His new book is a big, bright, 190-page homage to the world's most beautiful barks. He writes in the introduction:

It's pretty much neglected because at first sight it holds little interest for us. You can count books about bark on the fingers of one hand. It is, in fact, present in many forms in our daily lives (cinnamon, cork, rubber, incense, medicines, chewing gums, fibres, pigments and so on), but this only serves to make it seem ordinary. ... To whet people's enthusiasm, I thought it was important to find ways to surprise and move them, by treating bark in a completely new way, at once aesthetic and playful.

That means huge, colorful swatches of peeling strawberry bark and oozing orange Frankincense. Or bark like you've never seen it before.

  • Boswellia elongata is more commonly known as the Frankincense Tree. On a small Yemenite island to the east of the Horn of Africa, you can find eight of the world's 24 species of incense trees. Islanders chew the sap as a mouth disinfectant, and burn it for its scent.
    Hide caption
    Boswellia elongata is more commonly known as the Frankincense Tree. On a small Yemenite island to the east of the Horn of Africa, you can find eight of the world's 24 species of incense trees. Islanders chew the sap as a mouth disinfectant, and burn it for its scent.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) is a flowering, deciduous tree in South America's tropical forests. A key characteristic is its thorny trunk.
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    The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) is a flowering, deciduous tree in South America's tropical forests. A key characteristic is its thorny trunk.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • The ocotillo tree is a shrub-looking plant in the southwest U.S. Yellowish tissue takes over photosynthesis during the dry season, when its leaves have fallen. It is a medicinal plant that was used by native Americans.
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    The ocotillo tree is a shrub-looking plant in the southwest U.S. Yellowish tissue takes over photosynthesis during the dry season, when its leaves have fallen. It is a medicinal plant that was used by native Americans.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • Spotted gum trees grow on the east coast of Australia. The orange-colored bark peels off at the beginning of summer, leaving behind colorful splotches of green, white and yellow.
    Hide caption
    Spotted gum trees grow on the east coast of Australia. The orange-colored bark peels off at the beginning of summer, leaving behind colorful splotches of green, white and yellow.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • There are about a dozen species in the genus Arbutus, trees found in southern Europe and the western part of North America. They are known as strawberry trees in Europe and madrones in the U.S.
    Hide caption
    There are about a dozen species in the genus Arbutus, trees found in southern Europe and the western part of North America. They are known as strawberry trees in Europe and madrones in the U.S.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • There are dozens of birch species, all which originate in the northern hemisphere. Its sap is collected and drunk as a tonic in northern Europe and Russia. It is also used in syrup, beer and wintergreen-flavored candy.
    Hide caption
    There are dozens of birch species, all which originate in the northern hemisphere. Its sap is collected and drunk as a tonic in northern Europe and Russia. It is also used in syrup, beer and wintergreen-flavored candy.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • The Madagascar palm, or genus Pachypodia (meaning "thick foot") is engemic to the island. Its name refers to the swollen trunk, often bottle-shaped in certain species.
    Hide caption
    The Madagascar palm, or genus Pachypodia (meaning "thick foot") is engemic to the island. Its name refers to the swollen trunk, often bottle-shaped in certain species.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • The Japanese Stewartia is a close relative of the tea plant. In the summer it is covered with white flowers and in the fall, the trunk turns orange-red.
    Hide caption
    The Japanese Stewartia is a close relative of the tea plant. In the summer it is covered with white flowers and in the fall, the trunk turns orange-red.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com
  • Before the Ice Age, the Chinese Zelkova formed forests all over the northern hemisphere. Closely related to the elm, it is one of the best species for creating bonsai.
    Hide caption
    Before the Ice Age, the Chinese Zelkova formed forests all over the northern hemisphere. Closely related to the elm, it is one of the best species for creating bonsai.
    Cedric Pollet, from the book "Bark"/cedric-pollet.com

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Pollet, born and still living in France, was inspired as a child by his natural surroundings. He studied agricultural engineering and landscape design, and sort of fell into photography as a byproduct of being around so much photogenic flora. Supported by awards and grants, he has traveled the world documenting trees indigenous to even the most remote locations. It's a pretty obscure passion, but if Pollet has any say, you too might become a bark believer.

You can see more on his website.

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