North American Flowering Trees
Flowering trees provide an extra dimension of color to any landscape. North America is home to many types of flowering trees, but several varieties stand out for the intensity of their blooms. These trees are easily recognized and well-loved by gardeners in both the United States and Canada.
Known botanically as Magnolia grandiflora, the Southern magnolia tree is a large evergreen that is native to the American south. The tree is prized for its fragrant, creamy white flowers that can grow to well over a foot in diameter. Suitable for USDA plant hardiness zones 7 to 10a, the Southern magnolia grows as far north as Massachusetts along the east coast and into the coastal areas of southwest British Columbia in the west. In recognition of its southern American heritage, Magnolia grandiflora is the official tree and flower of the State of Mississippi.
The flowering dogwood, or Cornus florida, grows across most of the United States and in the milder regions of southern Canada. Classified as an understory tree, it typically grows 25 to 30 feet in height beneath the forest canopy and produces abundant white flowers through spring and early summer. Although commonly thought to be petals, the showy white bracts at the base of the flower are actually modified leaves. The very popular Cornus florida is the state tree and flower of Virginia and the state flower of North Carolina. Cornus nutallii is a western cousin found along the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest. Known commonly as the Pacific dogwood, it displays similar blooms and is the floral emblem of British Columbia.
Flowering crabapple trees are admired for their profuse blossoms, which may be pink, red or white. In the spring, it’s common to see these trees with flowers in such abundance that the branches become totally hidden from view. Know botanically as malus, crabapples are not considered to be true apple trees because of the small size of their fruit. These trees are quite hardy in the cold, and grow across most of the United States and southern Canada in zones 4 through 8. If not pruned back, crabapple trees can reach 25 feet in height and spread. Although not native to North America, the crabapple has become a perennial spring favorite across the continent.
The Eastern redbud, or Cercis canadensis, brightens any early spring landscape with an intense display of pink blossoms that cover the branches and trunk before the leaves appear. Redbuds are found in plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, which encompasses nearly all of the United States and the milder regions of eastern and western Canada. Although grown primarily as a shrub in home gardens, the Eastern redbud can reach 40 feet in height under favorable conditions. Cercis canadensis is the official state tree of Oklahoma.