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How to Identify White Flowering Trees in Michigan

dogwood image by rebekah gonzalez from

White flowering trees make attractive landscape additions, but you need to identify the tree if you want to plant one yourself. Michigan native trees with white flowers include the staghorn sumac, black cherry, catalpa, Kentucky coffee tree, shadberry and dogwood. Knowing flower color alone won't help you identify the tree correctly. Note the time of year you found the flowering tree then record data on the tree's other features. Michigan State University offers Michigan native tree identification tools that will help you determine what tree you've found, so you can obtain it for your yard.

Examine the flowers on your tree, noting their size, shape, fragrance and number of petals. Record this data in a notebook for use in identifying your tree later.

Notice how the leaves are arrange on the stem. Are they directly opposite one another (opposite) or staggered (alternate)? What color and shape are the leaves? Record this information.

Take a picture of the tree's leaves, flowers, bark and overall appearance. You'll use the images later when comparing your data with that of Michigan's flowering trees to make a positive identification.

Work through the checklist provided by Michigan State University to narrow down the possible matches (see Resources). Enter in data on the leaf arrangement and shape. If you're unclear about a terminology they use, Clemson University provides diagrams that illustrate horticultural terminology (see Resources).

Compare the image of any matching trees with your photograph to confirm a match.


Ask a Michigan Master Gardener for help if you cannot identify your white flowering tree after this work. They're trained in tree and flower identification, and each Michigan county has a Master Gardener Association (see Resources).

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