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I walk past this tree every day, in the northern Midwest, and I am confounded by it. It starts off at the bottom like any normal oak or maple tree (I don’t know my trees). Then about 10 feet up it turns white, almost like it decided to try being a birch tree for awhile, and never went back. I’m pretty sure that’s not how trees work though. So what’s up with this?

half white tree

I took this picture of it last year and found it again this one has leaves. imgur doesn’t do a good job of compression though.

enter image description here

  • Could you post a close up of the silvery bark? One of the answers suggests a birch, which is a definite possibility, but the transition between the two doesn't look right to me. I' thinking perhaps aspen, Populus tremuloides. The dark blotches on the white (technically called lenticels) are diamond shaped in aspen . On birch they are narrow slits as in the answer below. – George of all trades Apr 17 at 8:13
  • @Georgeofalltrades new picture added – Ed Marty Apr 17 at 14:33
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I originally thought that the tree was a Gray Birch (Betula populifolia), because it's not exfoliating and is in a multi-trunk form (most of the birch clumps sold - in the northern US Midwest, at least - are of this species or a hybrid of the species). I found no photos of trees old enough for the bark to furrow, though, probably because the tree is attacked and killed by bronze birch borer at a relatively young age.

So, I'm going with white poplar (Populus alba), although the clump form doesn't really match how it's sold. You'll know it by its leaves - they're large, with very white and fuzzy undersides. Here's the bark: https://www.planfor.co.uk/Donnees_Site/Produit/Images/1761/poplar-white_UK_500_0003216.jpg and here: https://forestry.usu.edu/images/treeid/poplar-aspen/white-poplar-trunk.jpg There's one a few houses away from me, and the bark is nearly identical.

  • The pictures you linked to do look very similar to the tree I see. I have added another picture with leaves that I took last year. – Ed Marty Apr 17 at 14:20
  • Yep, white poplar. Note the very white undersides to the leaves. – Jurp Apr 17 at 23:12
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It's a birch tree judging by the raised lenticels and pattern on the older bark. Here is a typical young paper birch, probably Betula papyrifera, which is native to North America. enter image description here

and here is a European birch which is older. You can see as the tree continues to grow the older bark that emerges is a dark colour. enter image description here

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Personally, I can't see the bark clearly enough even under magnification to determine a particular pattern, but do remember that bark changes with maturity, both in colour and pattern, on many trees. It may start out a smooth, pale grey and mature in time to ridged and brown, or the other way around, for instance. Posting a picture of the tree when it's in leaf, with a clear image of branch and leaves, should make it more easy to identify correctly.

  • I have added another picture I took last year, in case that helps – Ed Marty Apr 17 at 14:18
  • That isn't a great picture, obviously, but might vaguely confirm this is likely Populus alba, one of the answers already given below – Bamboo Apr 17 at 20:10

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