All of Georgia's trees flower, according to Dr. Kim D. Coder, a professor at the University of Georgia's School of Forest Resources, but not all flower equally. Of the state's more than 200 native tree species, only a small number produce blossoms attractive enough for consideration in your ornamental landscape plans. Their always showy and frequently fragrant flowers are definitely worth a look.
The largest of all buckeye trees, yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) thrives in Georgia's mountain forests. Normally growing from 50 to 75 feet with heavy branches that brush the ground, these trees are members of the horse chestnut family. Their upright clusters of yellow flowers appear in May, followed by tan-husked buckeye nuts in the fall.
Vivid orange or red autumn foliage is an added bonus. Accordint to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Native Americans ate the buckeyes after roasting them to neutralize their toxins. Plant yellow buckeye in shade and moist, rich, well-drained soil. Be prepared for heavy squirrel visitations when the nuts ripen.
An evergreen member of the tea family, Loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus) is a 30- to 80-foot tree that grows wild in Georgia's wetlands. Its glossy deep green leaves make a splendid contrast with showy white camellia-like flowers. This tree has an exceptional blooming period. Its fragrant 2- to 3-inch flowers continue to bloom from May until the first autumn frost. Single flowers occur in bunches at the ends of the trees' branches.
Loblolly bay likes sun and moist, rich, well-drained soil. While it handles drought, it may grow as a shrub instead of a tree in dry locations. Young trees are susceptible to root rot.
Found on the wooded hillsides and stream banks of Georgia's coastal plains, silky camellia (Stewartia malacodendron) is another member of the tea family. Growing up to 16 feet, it has 2- to 4-inch leaves with silky-haired undersides.
The tree's white or cream saucer-shaped blooms appear from April to June. Their dark purple stamens create an eye-catching contrast. Silky camellia likes early morning sun and heavy afternoon shade. Plant it in acidic, well-drained soil rich in humus.
Fevertree (Pinckneya bracteata) is a rare small tree found in Georgia's lowland woods along the edges of swamps and streams. Bunches of deep green leaves grow at the end of its branches. Fevertree's greenish-yellow flowers develop visible sepals--normally, sepals are hidden beneath flower petals.
Fevertree's pink, white or rose-colored sepals are responsible for its alternative name of poinsettia tree.The up-to-30-foot trees bloom between April and August. Plant fevertree in a partly shady location with moist, loose rich soil. It tolerates dry soil, but grows more slowly in dry locations.