Dogwoods and redbuds are popular flowering trees. But elms, oaks, maples and other trees have flowers too! Some flowers are real eye-catchers while others are so inconspicuous they go unnoticed. This is because some flowers need to be noticed and others do not.
Flowers are pollinated by wind, insects or other animals. If a tree relies on insects for pollination, its flowers must be showy to attract them. If wind is used for pollination, conspicuous flowers are of no benefit.
Oaks, elms and maples have small, inconspicuous flowers because they are wind-pollinated. Most wind-pollinated flowers lack petals and may not even look like flowers. They begin flowering early in the spring before most insects are active. The small flowers produce large amounts of pollen and are able to catch windblown pollen. The flowers must produce lots of pollen, for the pollen blows wherever the wind carries it, and only a small portion of what is released will land where it’s needed.
This month, take a close look at the common trees in your yard, neighborhood or park; you’ll find some of the first flowers of spring.