Dogwood Trees Bloom After Serviceberries

The flowers and trees seem to still be ahead of schedule this year. The very warm start to Spring that we experienced must have really pushed them hard. Plants that are usually May-flowering were already going strong and maybe three weeks ahead of “normal”.

In the last two weeks of April the lilacs were blooming in their purple and white. Dogwood and Redbud trees had very long bloom times this year. About a week’s worth of blooms seems typical due to the usual rainy and windy spring weather that knocks down blossoms and petals, but this year so far has been a little different.

Dogwood flower with paired leaves in the background.
Dogwood flower with paired leaves in the background. Photo taken 15 Apr 2012.
White dogwood flower closeup.
White dogwood flower closeup. Photo taken 15 Apr 2012.
Small dogwood tree under oak.
Small dogwood tree under oak. Photo taken 15 April 2012.

Dogwood trees were exceptional this year and they bloomed for two weeks or longer. From about the 10th of April through the end of the month we saw the pretty four-petaled tree flowers all over central Pennsylvania.

Flowers bloom at set times of the year according to temperature and daylight conditions. It may be practical to remember when a certain flower blooms according to what the general population is doing and not merely using the calendar.

Following the calendar for “normal” bloom times this year would have resulted in us missing a lot of flowers blooming. Most plants started their spring development about three weeks earlier than normal in 2012, so thinking about relative bloom times would be more fruitful.

For example, two early Spring white-flowering trees may be confused when seen at a distance. (OK, if you can recognize the shapes or outlines of these trees, it’s a moot point.) The example below is about relative bloom times, not identifying spring-blooming trees in themselves.

Two dogwood trees bloom among the hardwood trees developing their leaves.
Two dogwood trees bloom among the hardwood trees developing their leaves. Photo taken 28 April 2012.

Dogwood trees blossom a little later than serviceberry trees. Serviceberries bloom when practically no leaves are on the trees. It doesn’t matter if all the trees, in general, are leafing-in early or late compared to the average bloom times. Dogwoods bloom when most of the hardwood trees have at least some leaves developed, and they may continue to bloom until the leaves are about 50% of their full-grown size. Dogwood trees flower after the serviceberry blossoms have blown away.

Picking up clues from the surrounding vegetation can help us learn about the flowering times of certain plants. Remember that each plant is part of a community, and it’s the relationships of all the inhabitants of the community that make it work.

Redbud Trees Flower Purple at the Edge of the Woods

Close up of flowers of Redbud Tree(Cercis sili...
Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite trees bloomed beautifully this year. The weather cooperated to stay chilly during the blooming period for the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis. The redbud is native to the eastern US and as the Peterson Eastern Trees Guide tells us, Central Pennsylvania is the redbud’s northern-most limit.

I delight at seeing the redbuds each spring at the edge of the woods, peaking out with their rosy purple blossoms. Perhaps its the time of year – Happy Spring.

Redbud flowers arise directly from the stems. From a distance the blossoms appear to follow the lines of the tree. The result is a purple outline of many of the tree’s branches. Nice thin lines.

I think the redbud was probably the tree that made me realize that wild trees flower and can be beautiful doing so.

The flowering redbuds stand out where the corn field meets the woods at the base of the ridge. I look for them every Spring, but I’m sure that quite a few people zip down the highway without noticing them. Sad, don’t you think? Stop and smell the roses, people!

Redbud trees blooming at the woods edge.
Redbud trees blooming at the woods edge. Photo taken 10Apr2010.
Redbuds flowering in Pennsylvania.
Redbuds flowering in Pennsylvania. Photo taken 13Apr2010.

The redbuds flowered from at least the 10th, and probably a couple days before that, through the 23rd of April when some trees were noticed with leaves coming out. Rain on 24-25 April probably took down a lot of spring tree blossoms.

It’s hard to pin down the flowering times or blooming times of spring flowers. From year to year differences in weather patterns will dictate the blooming times of at least some of the Spring ephemerals.

We live in the Ridge and Valley Province of Pennsylvania, where you can change elevation in a matter of feet. Since elevation plays a role in temperature, it will also play a role in blooming times. From certain vantage points you can watch the tree leaves emerge in turn as you go up the mountain. In town, which is some 200 feet below our place on the ridge, plants can flower a week ahead of ours…forsythia, dogwood, azalea are examples from the past couple of weeks.

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