Skip to main content
Exploring the Texture of Trees
By Kate Sorensen

Now is a great time to head outside to observe the textures found in nature. Some questions to think about while you are exploring include:

  • How would you describe the tree bark that you find? Is it thick or thin? Smooth or rough?
  • Does the tree have leaves (deciduous) or needles (coniferous)? How do they feel?
  • Compare an old leaf to a new leaf. Do they feel different?
  • What part of the human body is like the bark on a tree?
  • What is the function of bark? What does it do for the tree?
  • How would a tree benefit from having thick bark?

Snakebark Maple

At the Bellevue Botanical Garden, we have lots of trees with different textures and patterns. The Snakebark Maple tree has a very smooth texture with an interesting snake-like pattern on its bark.

Western Red Cedar

The bark of the Western Red Cedar tree is smooth and stringy. The Native Americans living in this area have used it for clothing, rope and nets.

The bark of a Pine tree is rough and kind of scaly.

The Paperbark Maple tree has bark that peels off!

The bark of the Douglas Fir tree is very thick and rough. It is very resistant to fire. Look for the fir cones under the tree.  Do you see little “mouse feet” sticking out from under the scales?

Paperbark Maple

When I was in the Russian Far East last Fall, I was surprised to find out that the bark of a cork tree feels warm. Why do you think that is?

Here are some links to find out more about cork!


One way to explore texture is to take rubbings. Rubbings can be done very simply with paper and crayons or foil.

Tree bark rubbing

Tree bark rubbings – Place a piece of paper on the bark and rub with the flat side of a peeled crayon or a woodless pencil back and forth across the paper. Take your time to make a good impression. Try another tree and compare your rubbings. Foil can also be used to make rubbings – just place the foil on the bark and gently press it into the bark.

Leaf rubbing

Leaf rubbings – Set the leaf on a smooth surface, preferably vein-side up; then cover it with a paling piece of paper. Rub a crayon sideways back and forth across the paper above the leaf. The margins of the leaf as well as its veins should begin to show on the paper as you rub gently.


After you are done with your rubbing, you could:

  • use it for the cover of a nature journal
  • make a card to mail to a friend
  • make your own Tree Guide with a page for each tree with a written description of the tree, a drawing of the tree, and a rubbing of its’ bark and leaves or needles.

One Comment

Leave a Reply