Updated for 2019!
The spring season has finally arrived in Chicago after a somewhat snowy and very cold winter. This winter, the Chicago area experienced everything from snow to ice storms to a deep freeze that dropped the temperature to a still unbelievable negative 40 degrees. However, the temperatures have been consistently warm, and we have been seeing much more of the sun. It appears that the spring season is here to stay.
People in the Midwest are always excited when spring arrives because it means the end of the long, dull, and freezing winter. The warmer weather has already arrived, and the fresh spring colors of blooming trees, shrubs, and flowers will not be far behind. Residents of Chicago and its suburbs will soon be enjoying the beautiful colors of spring, a reminder that the summer is right around the corner.
In the coming weeks, you should start to notice the blooms of flowering trees and shrubs which will inject some color into the landscape. The fresh spring blooms are always a nice contrast to the dull colors of winter, which is one of the reasons why the spring is such a great time of year in the Midwest. There are many types of flowering trees and shrubs in the Chicago area that you can appreciate and even incorporate into your own yard or landscape.
The following is a guide to the flowering trees and shrubs of the Chicago area to look out for this spring. If you already have beautiful flowering trees or shrubs on your property and you want to ensure that they get the proper care and maintenance, talk to our professionals at Hendricksen Tree Care about our tree care services.
White ash trees (Fraxinus alba) flower early in the spring, before they even grow back their leaves. Male white ash trees bloom each year while females will bloom once every 2-3 years, but they bloom heavily when they do. The flowers of male and female ash trees can be yellowish green to greenish purple and they are about an eighth of an inch in diameter. The pollination of ash tree flowers is mainly done by wind pollination.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a tree native to the Chicago area that flowers just before its leaves emerge. Each sassafras tree will only grow either male or female flowers. These flowers grow in clustered groups at the ends of the twigs and are greenish yellow or yellow in color. Sassafras flowers are typically pollinated by bees.
Willow trees (Salix sp.) don’t flower until mid-spring when they start to develop their leaves. Examining the structure of the willow’s flower as well as the presence of seeds helps determine the sex of the tree. The flowers on male and female willows are called catkins. These flowers are generally 1-3 inches long with a narrow, cylindrical shape, and they are green in color. They are mostly pollinated by bees, but they can also by pollinated by the wind.
Male and female flowers of the Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) grow separately but will bloom on the same tree. These flowers grow in clusters that can get up to one foot in length and they are generally yellow-green in color. The Ohio buckeye flowers in April and May and the flowers are pollinated by bees and hummingbirds.
The American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a native tree to Illinois that can grow to be 75 feet tall. It gets its name from its sap which is sweet and gummy. Like the Ohio buckeye, sweetgum trees also produce male and female flowers on the same plant. They differ in appearance however as the male flowers grow in clusters, can be 1-2½ inches long, and are greenish yellow. Female sweetgum flowers have a globe-like shape and are green in color.
Black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) develop fragrant flower clusters late in the spring after they have grown back their leaves. The flowers of a black locust are small and white with a yellow spot in the middle, and they grow in 4-6-inch-long drooping clusters. Black locust flowers are pollinated by bumblebees, butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds.
The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a tree native to the Midwest that can grow up to 25 feet tall. These trees generally have a short trunk, so their branches start closer to the ground. The flowers of an eastern redbud are purplish pink in color and start growing early in the spring on the trunk and branches before the leaves emerge. Eastern redbuds are typically pollinated by various species of bees.
Yellow poplars, or tulip poplars (Lirodendron tulipifera), have the largest flower of any tree native to Illinois. These flowers are cup-shaped with a cone-shaped cluster of pistils surrounded by six yellow-green petals and they appear in April and May. They can grow to be 2 inches in length and they have ample nectar which attracts bees and other insect pollinators.
Dogwood trees (Cornus sp.) produce flowers from March until June. There are many species of dogwood trees in the Chicago area including the Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) that produces both fruits and flowers in late March or April. The flowers of the Cornelian cherry dogwood are star-shaped, and they grow in clusters when the temperature is still cool. The nectar in these flowers attracts bees, butterflies, and other species.
There are a wide variety of crabapple trees (Malus spp. and cvs.) that range in height, canopy shape, and flower type in the Chicago area. The flowers of a crabapple tree tend to grow in clusters and they range in color from purple and pink to white. These trees flower heavily which is why they are loved by gardeners and homeowners looking to improve their landscape. Crabapple species do particularly well in urban environments because they are resistant to many diseases.
The Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera) is a tree or shrub that produces white, bell-shaped flowers in April and May that dangle from the branches. These plants flower around the same time their leaves emerge, and they eventually transform into nutlike fruits by the end of the season. Some Carolina silverbells develop as shrubs while others can grow to be 40-foot-tall trees. The unique beauty of the hanging flowers is why the Carolina silverbell was chosen as one of Illinois’ Best Plants.
Basswood trees (Tilia sp.) are most easily recognized by their large, heart-shaped leaves and their drooping flower clusters. The cream-colored flowers of basswood trees bloom in June and appear in drooping clusters of 5 to 10 individual flowers. Basswood flowers are hermaphroditic, with both male and female parts, and they are very fragrant. The fragrance and appearance of these flowers make basswood trees desirable for their ornamental qualities. Their flowers also attract bees which are responsible for their pollination.
Tree Care for your Flowering Trees and Shrubs
If the trees and shrubs on your property have not flowered yet, you can expect many of them to flower in the next 4-6 weeks, weather permitting of course. The spring flowers on many of these Illinois trees are truly a sight to behold and having a flowering tree on your property can really enhance the natural beauty of your landscape each spring. People who are doing new tree planting this year should consider planting a tree or shrub that flowers every spring.
The tree species mentioned in this guide are native to the Chicago area and can survive quite well in our climate. However, all types of Chicagoland trees and shrubs are vulnerable to pests, diseases, and damage from various sources that can shorten their lives. At Hendricksen Tree Care, we provide complete tree care services to protect your trees from insects and diseases and nurse them back to health when there is a problem. Our certified arborists are dedicated to keeping your trees vibrant and healthy so that they grace your property with the same flowering beauty every spring.
Contact Hendricksen Tree Care at (847) 305-5524 for more information about our tree care services in the north and northwest Chicago suburbs.