Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - March 24, 2010

From: Cranston, RI
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Need help identifying a tree with wintergreen-flavored bark that grew in my backyard during my youth in Cumberland, RI.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island (a town in the northern part of the state) there was a tree in our backyard with thin, brown peel-able bark. The bark itself had white stripes. Under the layer of brown bark was a layer of green, wintergreen-flavored bark. Growing up we ate this dark green layer and chewed the light green sticks left behind after we had stripped the bark away. It was positioned in a fairly shady part of the yard between evergreens. Please tell me, what was this tree?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants has found that it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify a plant from a written description, and usually asks the questioner to provide a picture of the plant in question. From the use of the past tense in your question, I surmise that a photo is not available.

However, your description provides an invaluable clue: wintergreen-flavored bark! With this information, I am going to conclude that the tree you used to eat was Sweet Birch Betula lenta (sweet birch).   In earlier times, these trees were the major source of wintergreen oil (methyl salicylate), but most of it is manufactured synthetically today.

This link from Purdue University provides information about the tree and its products.

The UConn Plant Database  has numerous images of the tree.

 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Transplanting Ilex x attenuata (Savannah holly)
July 31, 2014 - Is it hard to take a savannah holly out of my front yard? Do the roots grow down deep or are they more shallow? I can only take a 36-40 rootball circumference because of surrounding established shru...
view the full question and answer

Plants for 100 gal. pot by pool from Ft. Worth TX
June 23, 2012 - What North Texas evergreen or combination of evergreen plants, bushes or trees could thrive in a huge, 100-gallon clay pot (immovable!) that is situated in full sun year round in an exposed area n...
view the full question and answer

Oaks at Wildflower Center from Wimberley TX
September 05, 2012 - I know you have numerous Quercus fusiformis examples at the ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. My question is, do you also have Quercus virginiana growing there? Also, is Oak Wilt a disease that ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning guidance for Carolina buckthorn from Houston
October 23, 2012 - I have a Carolina Buckthorn in my back patio that I planted in fall 2001. The summer of 2003 the roofers dropped something off the back and broke the top 10-12 inches off. I have tried to train the la...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing shade tree for Corona CA
September 17, 2014 - Hi, I'm looking for a fast growing shade tree. I live in Corona CA so it will need to do well in a lot of sun, moderate winds and clay soil. Thanks so much for your suggestions.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.