Where in Wisconsin is this strange landscape? Any ideas? Believe it or not, it’s the bark of a young hackberry tree. Hackberry are native to the Driftless, and they typically grow straight and fast. They don’t have much timber value, but I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I’m not sure why, but I just plain like them. They maintain their “warty” bark as they mature, and they can get quite large.
Do you see the lines in the bark? Those are like the growth rings of the wood. Each layer is a year of growth. All trees have a thin layer of cells under the bark that are actively dividing when the tree grows. Cells on the inside turn into wood, and cells on the outside turn into bark. You can see layering in the bark of other trees if you look closely. Paper birch shows the annual bark growth clearly. Each “paper” layer is one year of growth. You can’t necessarily determine a tree’s age by counting the bark layers though, because some of the layers slough off over time.