Flowers in Unexpected Places

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Though most people think of April and May as the showiest times of the year for spring flowers, March can be a very exciting time for plants.  Many trees and shrubs that appear to be still sleeping off the winter are rapidly preparing for the upcoming thaw, and more than a few of them are already in flower!  Red maple (Acer rubrum) is one of our favorite native trees that puts on a much-welcomed spring show for the discerning plant lover.

Like most maples, the Red or Swamp Maple is known for its quick growth rate, easy cultural requirements, and stunning fall color.  But at this time of the year, the trees produce beautiful red flowers throughout their canopy that subtly announce the start of spring.  As the flower buds begin to swell in late February/early March, the trees begin to develop a gentle red hue that is finally realized by the flowers opening in mid-to-late March (the exact timing varies every year and depends on a large number of factors such as weather, siting, and genotype, to name a few).  In full bloom, the Red Maples provide a stark contrast to the bare-bones deciduous trees and wind-browned evergreens surrounding them.

Here at J.W. Townsend, the flowering of the Red Maples typically marks the start of our busy season, as we know that it won’t be very long before all of the trees in our gardens and woods are pushing out leaves, flowers, and fruits.  It’s not the showiest of flower displays, it’s enough to help remind us why we love the business of planting and caring for trees and shrubs in Central Virginia.

Pictured are Red Maple blooms just starting to open on a tree at the JWT shop on March 13.  Spring is finally here!


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