Native Michigan Flowering Trees

Bounded by the Great Lakes of Erie, Michigan and Superior, the state of Michigan covers USDA hardiness Zones 3 through 6. Even in the warmest part of the state, along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, winter temperatures can plummet to minus 10 F. Because the state's native flowering trees have adapted to these wintry extremes, they are good choices for Michigan ornamental landscaping plants.


Sassafras (Sassafra albidum) trees belong to the laurel family, and are found growing wild in Michigan's open woodlands. Reaching up to 50 feet, the spicily fragrant trees have horizontal branches that create a tiered appearance. Between March and May, sassafras trees produce crops of round clusters of yellowish-green or brown flowers that attract birds and butterflies. In mid-summer, female trees produce deep blue berries on attractive scarlet stems. The tree's vivid green leaves change to yellow, orange or red in the autumn. Distinctively flavored sassafras root has long been an ingredient in root beer. Plant sassafras trees in moist, acidic sand or sandy loam soil. Tolerant of both sun and shade, they can handle wet roots but do best in well-drained locations. While trees spread by root suckers, they're easy to manage. Because sassafras is allelopathic--a plant that inhibits other plant species--plant it where its root zone doesn't extend to other areas of your landscape.

Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum

Growing wild in Michigan's well-drained woods and thickets or along streams and rivers, rusty blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) is a small--up to18 feet--tree. Trees, with distinctive rectangular plates of bark, bloom in April and May. Their abundant flat clusters of white flowers contrast effectively with glossy deep green leaves. The flowers' nectar attracts birds, bees and butterflies. The leaves change to shades of pink, mauve and purple in the fall, according to Texas A&M's Horticultural Department. Flowers give way to one-half inch blue-black berries, providing food for birds. An understory tree in the wild, rusty blackhaw likes a partly shady location and dry sand, loam or clay soil high in limestone. This tree grows slowly, but its ornamental value makes it worth the wait.

Chickasaw Plum

Another small tree--up to 30 feet high--Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) grows in thickets along Michigan's woodland edges and roadsides. Clusters of fragrant white April and May blooms attract birds and butterflies. Chickasaw plum's green foliage becomes yellow in autumn. This member of the rose family also produces plums that are edible as fresh fruit or in preserves. New fruit is yellow, becoming red as it ripens in late summer. The tree's only drawback is that spiny thorns grow along its branches. Plant Chickasaw plum in sun to part shade. In full sun, trees branch and colonize heavily, while in shade they have a more open form. Chickasaw plums like dry, loose sandy soil.

Keywords: Michigan flowering trees, Great Lakes plum tree, Sassafras tree

About this Author

With a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from California State University at Pomona, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. A former veterinary assistant, paralegal and retail florist, she has a certificate in advanced floral design. "Super Floral Retailer Magazine" published her Valentine's Day design in 2003.