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Spring is a magical time of year. The appearance of flowers at the end of winter stimulates our senses. Warmer weather provides the opportunity for residents to spend more time outdoors enjoying our local natural environment and observing plants as they grow and bloom.

You may not realize it, but nearly all the trees in our area are flowering trees (except ginkgos and conifers). These insignificant blooms often go unnoticed because they lack the more showy blooms we associate with spring. Trees like maples and elms start flowering in late winter. By the time many other, more noticable, trees are flowering, these early birds are already producing fruit.

Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) in Wyman Park.

When flowering trees are mentioned, nonnative ornamental cherries are usually what comes to mind. They are abundant around Baltimore especially near Druid Park Lake. Cherries normally begin flowering in this area around the second week of March. The warm winter brought earlier blooms this year, and the cool damp weather that has followed has lengthened Spring a little. The study of the cycle of plants through the seasons is called phenology. Every year the National Phenology Network tracks the progress of spring here.

Flowering cherry (Prunus spp.) in Druid Hill Park.

Trees of the same species can flower at different times across the city. Spring comes earlier in the south and east and where there is a greater heat island effect. In the shadier, cooler neighborhoods of Northwest Baltimore the same type of tree might bloom a week or two later. Trees also may have been originally grown in nurseries located north or south of the city resulting in earlier or later bloom times. Are you interested in locating some of these springtime beauties around town? Check out TreeBaltimore’s new flowering tree map of the tree inventory!

Crabapple (Malus spp.) planted along the median of US 40.

Explore the flowering tree map to track down Eastern redbuds near you, or if you realize that some trees have already passed their bloom time this year, plan a visit next spring. Use the inventory to help you identify that mysterious tree around the corner from you that you’ve been wondering about. By early May, most redbuds have passed their peak in much of Baltimore, but black cherry and black locust are around the corner.

Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) in Chinquapin Run Park.

There is still time to catch some flowering dogwood in bloom. The map may also lead you to underappreciated trees like the sassafras, which has beautiful delicate flowers if studied up-close, though not as showy as some others.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) in the Edison Highway in Belair-Edison.

Oaks are an example of trees with non showy flowers that are not on the flowering tree map. Much of the time they go unnoticed, but if you look closely some will catch your eye. Oaks in the red oak group flower first, and those in the white oak group about two weeks later.

Baltimore City champion scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) near Wyman Park Drive and San Martin Drive.

There are many other trees with innocuous flowers that have charms that can appear sometimes by a gentle gust of wind. Whether we notice these trees or not, pollinators are not ignoring them. Each tree’s flower appeals to one in a different way.

Eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) along Hoffman Street by Greenmount Cemetery.

It’s not just flowers that appeal to the eye in springtime. When trees begin to leaf out, their immature leaves can show off interesting color and delicate unusual shapes, sometimes in the most urban settings. Living in a city it is easy to forget we are always surrounded by and connected to nature!

Oak (Quercus spp.) leafing out in late March in Curtis Bay.

In my position as Urban Forestry Technician for TreeBaltimore, I spend my days going from place to place across the city inspecting newly planted trees to make sure they are in good health etc. One of the perks of this work is having the opportunity to observe the progress of spring across the city. Whether it’s Curtis Bay or Cheswolde or Madison-Eastend, every neighborhood has a different spring story.

Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) leafing out in Irvin Luckman Memorial Park.

What’s happening with the trees in your neighborhood right now? During these slower times, take the opportunity to get outside (while practicing safe social distancing of course!) to enjoy all of the different flowering trees and other spring wonders near your home.

-Fred Chalfant