In the winter when there are fewer interesting green things to ponder, I really enjoy turning my attention to tree bark. Beech and hophornbeam trees have smooth bark you can literally write on, whereas the oaks and maples have flaky or chunky bark. But on the farm, the winner for most outlandish bark goes to the river birch (Betula nigra). The photo was taken in the floodplain of the Flat River downhill from our house. Individual trees vary, but all have very flaky disjointed bark that seems to be waiting to be peeled.