Bark crafts are much more than simply little canoes made to sell to tourists in fishing camps. Bark is a unique and interesting material to make crafts from, and there are many types to choose from.
The birch bark that we all know and love is grown throughout North America. The tree, Betula papyrifera or paper birch is the most well known.
Other common birches include Betula occidentalis, the riverbank birch, which is much smaller and has bronze coloured bark. The bark peels off easily in sheets.
The long lenticels, noticeable against the lighter coloured satiny bark reach around the trunk horizontally, an unmistakable characteristic.
Removing birch bark unfortunately will kill the tree, but if you can find one downed in a storm, or cut for firewood, don’t pass up the opportunity to try some birch bark crafts.
Willows, the Salix species, have bark that strips away easily from stems and branches in the early spring.
I use this for decorative bark bows after soaking in water overnight or for a few days to make it pliable. The smell of the bark from willows is sweet, and particularly strong when soaking.
Bark slabs from larger coniferous trees can be made into bird houses and other crafts.
Cedar bark from our provincial tree, Thuja plicata has been used for many crafts including baskets woven from the long supple strands.
It can also be made into rope, and was one of the most useful materials for the First Nations people of the west coast of British Columbia. As it contains a waxy substance it can be easily made waterproof, and was used for rain hats – living in a rain forest has its price.
Next time you’re in the woods, have a look around at the bark surrounding you and see if there’s a craft to be made.
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