Posts Tagged Prunus serotina

Flowers come and (mostly) gone

Halesia diptera flowers at peak bloom on April 2

Ah, what a wacky season it has been — and continues to be. A prime example is my exquisite Two-Winged Silverbell (Halesia diptera), which bloomed last year on April 15. This year, peak bloom was this past Monday, and now the blooms are mostly gone. Uncharacteristic heat, heavy downpours, and strong winds shortened this tree’s blooming season to the blink of an eye.

Here’s what the entire tree looked like from a distance:

See the whiteness on the ground beneath it? Those are flower petals, which were already rapidly falling, even though the flowers had barely opened. Here’s a closer look at the petals on the ground:

Floral snowfall

And because this wonderful tree’s season was so painfully short this year, I offer you one more photo. This one is what the top of the tree looked like as I stood beneath it:

This beauty is about 30 feet tall and fifteen feet wide.

At least I had the chance to photographically document this lovely native.

My huge Black Cherry tree bloomed two weeks earlier than last year. By the time I thought to try to photograph the flowers on April 2, they were already dropping, leaving tiny cherries in their place. I never tire of watching the birds — especially the Pileated Woodpeckers — devour this fruit when it ripens. Here’s what I saw on April 2 this year:

The Red Buckeye, on the other hand, was unimpressed by March’s early warmth. Last year, I wrote of its first blooms on March 30. This year, most blooms were open on April 2, and the tree continues to reign redly over my floodplain. Here’s a shot from this past Monday:

Red Buckeye flowers are supposed to call in the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, but I haven’t seen a single hummer yet at my house.

I’ll close with a few swamp shots. Those natives are well ahead of last year. The Cinnamon Ferns were displaying fully developed fruiting fonds last Monday when I took this shot:

Last year, I showed you a similar picture on April 20 — almost three full weeks later!

The Jack-in-the-Pulpits are also well ahead of last year. Here’s a shot of a green one with an Atamasco Lily bloom — another species blooming earlier:

And here are some equally precocious purple Jacks blooming lustily despite being surrounded by poison ivy and other swamp plants:

I’ll leave you with proof that I’m not the only one prowling my muddy floodplain these days:

Deer at the top, and maybe a healthy raccoon below?

I’ve got even more photos of plants whose flowers have already come and gone. Stay tuned for future installments. I guess the moral of the story is to wander through your yards and gardens as often as you can this time of year. If you linger indoors, the wonders of spring will most surely pass you by.

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Cherry Jubilee

Black Cherry Flowers Just Beginning to Open

About four days ago, the big Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)  in my yard began opening the first of its many flowers. It was a cloudless, perfect spring day, and looking up at the branches of this two-trunked 60-foot high denizen of our upper floodplain, I saw that another cherry celebration was commencing.

Three native trees growing in my southeastern Piedmont yard consistently attract the biggest bird feeding frenzies when their fruits ripen: Dogwood, Southern Magnolia, and Black Cherry. In all but late killing freeze years, fruit set on these species is consistently excellent — the local pollinators love their flowers as much as the birds covet their fruits.

Today before the clouds and winds intensified, I ran out and snapped a shot to document the progress of the Black Cherry’s flowers. They are more than halfway done, judging by this shot:

Black Cherry Flowers

Note the attractive bark of the trunk behind the dangling branches full of flowers. If you click on these photos, you’ll be able to see the arrangement of the flower clusters. Botanists call this multi-flower cluster form a raceme. Individual flowers are arranged along a central rib. After pollination, the individual black cherries (botanically, drupes) develop from those flowers, creating long clusters of small fruits that begin green, and eventually ripen to red, then a deep purple-black.

When the fruits are fully ripe, the entertainment portion of the program begins. By far the funniest birds to watch are the Pileated Woodpeckers. These crow-sized woodpeckers (our largest) display impressive acrobatic skills as they dangle from thin branches to devour large beak-fulls of what must be very tasty fruits.

But the Pileated Woodpeckers don’t have the tree to themselves. Every other woodpecker, warbler, bluebird, robin, and other fruit-lover all compete for the black cherries.

My references tell me that Black Cherry fruits taste bitter to human mouths, but they supposedly can be made into a tasty wine. I can’t imagine how anyone ever figured this out, unless they lived in a forest bereft of birds. By summer’s end on my tree, all that’s left of the fruits are a few that dropped to the ground during the feeding frenzy — and those are the object of avid insect attention.

You may know that the wood of Black Cherry trees is highly valued by the furniture industry; it’s more valuable commercially in the northern part of its range. Here in the southern Piedmont, you’ll find many small trees growing along roadsides and fencerows (birds land and deposit seeds in such spots). In our region, most of the big trees grow in moist hardwood forests; that’s where my big one lives. But large specimens can also occasionally be found in uplands.

At least one cultivar — ‘Spring Sparkle’ — features aesthetic growth habits more suitable to home landscapes. If you ask me, even the plain old species — when sited favorably — is well worth the space it occupies — for the mouths it feeds — and the entertainment it provides.

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