Trees in winter reveal what’s beneath the leaves

Rob Zimmer

One of my favorite things about the winter season is visiting the trees found in our backyards, parks and woodlands. The winter trees, though we often think of them as skeletons of their summer selves, possess a beauty, elegance and otherworldly presence.

Even in your own backyard, take a walk among the trees and give them a closer look.

Look at the bark, the perfect textures and imperfections and colors. Look at the lichens and mosses that may grow upon them. Look for the tiny cocoons or chrysalises of insects, moths and butterflies.

As you walk among your backyard trees, take a close look at the tips of each branch and twig. The leaf buds for the coming spring are already there. They are ready to burst open when the sap begins to rise with the warmth of spring.

As you walk among the trees of the forests and parks, make special note of different textures and coloration. These will help you identify many of the trees of the forest.

There are the birches, with their ruffled, feathery bark in pristine white, metallic gold, or salmon and orange.

There are the shagbark hickories, with their long shards of curved and pliable bark in slate gray with black streaks.

There are the beeches, with their elephant-skin bark, smooth and unblemished, except for the telltale eyes that are always keeping watch in the forest.

There are the red pines, with their flaky, reddish bark, as well as white pines with deeper, richer bark in thick, chunky segments.

One of my favorites, the hackberry, features sculpted ridges and veins of three-dimensional beauty.

Of course, there are the conifers, the spruces, pines, fir, hemlock, white-cedar and juniper. Many of these are now tufted in snow, as we have finally received our first measurable snows of the season.

The wildlife of winter can often be found among these trees — squirrels, songbirds, ruffed grouse, woodpeckers, owls, porcupines, whitetails and others that consider these sacred trees their lifeblood during the long, cold winter.

As winter lingers, become one with the trees and enjoy their winter magic.

Rob Zimmer is a nature and garden author, public speaker and radio show host on WHBY. Readers can find him on Facebook at