Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Good News and Bad News: Tree Flowers March 29, 2009

Filed under: Plants,Trees — saltthesandbox @ 10:16 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tree flowers are blooming in our neighborhood, which is good news and bad news.

The good news is that — even without colorful petals — tree flowers are beautiful in their own ways. Some tree flowers, like newly opened Weeping Willow, are beautiful in a cute and fuzzy way:

Fuzzy Weeping Willow flowers peek out through protective bud scales.

Fuzzy Weeping Willow flowers peek out from under protective bud scales. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Common Alder flowers are beautiful in a more formal, stately way:

Drooping catkins of of Common Alder have a different sort of beauty, plus pollen to spare.

Drooping catkins of Common Alder have a different sort of beauty, plus pollen to spare.

Some Red Maple flowers explode, like fireworks:

Red Maple flowers can be spectacular, if you catch them at the right time, in the right light.

Red Maple flowers can be spectacular, if you catch them at the right time, in the right light.

Looking closer, we see these Maple flowers have only pollen-bearing parts:

Red Maple flowers have yellow pollen-bearing parts at the ends of pale stalks.

Red Maple flowers have pink and yellow pollen-bearing parts at the ends of pale stalks.

The seed-making flowers must bloom elsewhere, maybe on the same tree, maybe on others of its kind. (I’m not sure which it is with this specific tree, so I’ll keep visiting it until I find out.)

To appreciate tree flowers’ beauty, getting closer almost always helps. American Elm flowers look a little messy, but the play of yellow-greens and purples has a certain charm:

American Elm flowers display an interesting mix of greens and purples.

American Elm flowers display a subtle mix of yellow-greens and purples.

Of course, when a windy rainstorm knocks tree flowers to the ground, they can make mess for folks like us to clean:

Wind-blown Elm flowers litter the surface of our backyard pool.

Wind-blown Elm flowers litter the surface of our backyard pool.

If you stop and look closely, tree flowers can spread a bit of spring-time joy across your neighborhood. But the bad news is they also spread a lot of pollen. So, late last week we broke out my son Ethan’s allergy medications. We know we can manage the mess of fallen flowers and the seeds that follow. Now we’ll see if we can manage Ethan’s seasonal allergies, which may get worse as he enters his high school years.

But first, one more piece of good news about tree flowers and other opening buds: They bring tiny bugs to tree tops, which in turn bring tiny birds, like Kinglets, Warblers, and Tanagers. Tree flowers mark the beginning of another stage in spring migration.

Notes added April 2, 2009: This post was our entry in the Festival of the Trees #34, a “carnival” of blog posts about trees. Go here to see a list of the other entries. If you liked my post about tree flowers, then you should also check out Treeblog’s post on tree flowers, buds, and catkins.

Yesterday we received our first Pollen and Mold Alert email from the National Allergy Board. We weren’t surprised to see maple and elm pollen on the list. Our pollen counts come from a station in nearby Melrose Park, Illinois. If you live in the United States, you can go here to find the station closest to you.

 

7 Responses to “Good News and Bad News: Tree Flowers”

  1. Nancy Soro Says:

    Hi, Eric —

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures. I posted some of our magnolia (tulip?) tree on Facebook. We’ve really been enjoying your website — thanks!

    Nancy

  2. It’s so easy to miss ‘smaller’ wonders like these — thanks for the reminder that our trees will soon be blooming — we’re going to be paying extra special attention this year to their flowers.

  3. Dave Says:

    Excellent close ups there. Happy Spring, eh? : )

  4. Georgia Says:

    You are right! The red maple flowers do resemble fireworks. (Found this post via FOTT #34.)

  5. Su Says:

    Wow Red maple flowers looks wonderful. Keep it up the good work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s