Native Spring Flowering Trees

Spring flowers fill us with hope, engender feelings of renewal, and delight our senses. Their bright colors and velvety textures are a feast for the eyes, their smell can be intoxicating, and the sounds of bees buzzing and birds chirping among their branches is like nature’s symphony.

As warming weather and longer days beckon you outside, keep an eye out for several native tree species with flowers that provide a spectacular springtime show! And, consider using these and other native plants in your own garden.

Western Redbud

Cercis occidentalis

Western Redbud Cercis occidentalis

The Western or California redbud is native to the foothills of California, Arizona, and Utah. Its bright magenta flowers appear before the leaves each spring, giving each tree the look of a hot pink coral. The heart shaped leaves provide their own pop of color in the fall when they turn red and brown. Redbuds produce large seed pods that provide food for numerous wildlife and the flowers are a boon to pollinators. The tree’s young reddish branches are highly valued by Native American basket weavers.

Downy Serviceberry

Amelanchier arborea

 Downy Serviceberry Amelanchier arborea

The delicate white flowers that cover this shrubby-looking tree before its leaves arrive are an early harbinger of spring. In summer, the deep reddish-purple berries—also known as June berries—are a windfall to native wildlife and have been consumed by humans for centuries. Eat them right off the tree or use in recipes as you would a blueberry. In fall, the leaves turn a beautiful red. Serviceberry trees remain fairly compact so they are great for all types of garden settings. Consider planting one of these instead of the overly used, often invasive, and brittle Bradford Pear.

Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida

Flowering Dogwood Cornus florida

One of the most beloved native trees, the Flowering Dogwood is the state tree of Virginia and Missouri, and is commonly found in woodland understories in its natural range. Its four large, white petals that arrive in early spring give way to bright red berries and red leaves in the fall. Its tendency to develop a horizontal branching structure make these trees striking to look at even in winter. As an understory tree, it prefers some shade but will survive in full sun. 

Sweet Bay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana

Sweet Bay Magnolia  Magnolia virginiana

Native to the southeastern United States, the Sweet Bay Magnolia ranges from evergreen to deciduous depending on its location—remaining evergreen at the southern end of its range and semi-to-fully deciduous farther north. Its showy white flowers are not as large as those found its cousin, the Southern Magnolia, but they are generally more abundant and quite fragrant. Magnolias develop seed pods with bright red berries that are eaten by various birds and wildlife. Sweet Bay Magnolias are very tolerant of wet soil and are a good option for rain gardens.