Native to eastern and central North America. The common name refers to the plant's peeling bark, which strips off to reveal several layers. Graceful, arching growth to 9 feet tall, 10 feet wide; looks something like a larger version of spiraea, to which it is closely related. Medium green leaves to 3 inches long are broadly oval, with lobed edges. Rounded clusters of many tiny white or pinkish blossoms appear in spring or early summer. Prune as needed after bloom; rejuvenate by cutting old stems to the ground.
Selections are more attractive than the species. 'Diabolo', to 912 feet tall and wide, has intense reddish purple leaves (foliage color can tend toward dark green in very hot summers or when plant is grown in partial shade). 'Luteus' is about the same size, with leaves that are yellow when plant is grown in sunlight, yellow-green in shade. 'Center Glow' reaches 68 feet tall and wide, with leaves that emerge greenish gold and mature to burgundy. Similarly sized 'Coppertina' has coppery orange foliage. Compact selections to 46 feet tall and broad include 'Dart's Gold', similar to 'Luteus' but brighter; 'Lady in Red', with purplish red foliage; 'Little Devil' ('Donna May'), growing 34 feet with small burgundy leaves; 'Nanus', with small, shallowly lobed, dark green leaves; 'Nugget', with leaves that unfold golden yellow, gradually mature to lime-green, and then turn gold again in fall; and 'Summer Wine', with dark purple leaves.