Ellen has been gardening with and appreciating native plants for eleven years in north metro Atlanta. She is especially fond of native shrubs and trees but is willing to learn to love herbaceous plants as well. Helping others to see the beauty and versatility of Georgia's native plants, whether it be in the wild or in the garden, is both a passion and a compulsion -- just ask her kids! Ellen is an active member of the Georgia Native Plant Society and the Georgia Botanical Society. She uses her personal blog, usinggeorgianativeplants.blogspot.com, to share seasonal ideas and pictures about native plants in her area.

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Signs of Spring
by Ellen Honeycutt - posted 03/31/13

The signs of spring are bursting out here in North Georgia and I'd like to point out a few of the ones you're likely to see while driving country roads.

The first sign for me is the hazy red fuzz of the red maple (Acer rubrum). The tiny flowers create the hazy effect. Later the tree appears to turn even more vibrant red, but that color is from the seeds - the bright red winged samaras which most of us remember as kids.

Red maple flowers are tiny and close to the stem

Red maple seeds are known as "samaras"

Next to bloom are tall white trees with a very formal shape. Unfortunately, these are NOT native. These are the naturalized "bradford" pears. These seedlings are popping up on roadsides and vacant lots with increasing frequency and often with the thorns that their parents did not have. Help remove these saplings if they show up on your property, they are a bonafide invasive plant now in Georgia.


Next to bloom are the beautiful redbud trees (Cercis canadensis). Often found peeking out from roadside edges, these make handsome garden specimens where ample sunshine allows them to develop a sculptural vase shape. As a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), the seeds produced by redbuds are thin pods with seeds. Wildlife do consume some of the seeds, but you can remove the low hanging ones if you prefer fewer seedlings (which are easily recognized by their heart-shaped leaves).

The pea-like flowers of Redbud

A wild tree hugs the edge of the woods, looking for light

Next to bloom is a white blooming native tree, the serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.). Also often found near woodland edges, the blooms are arranged in racemes (dangling clusters) and are more of a true white compared to the creamy blooms of the non-native pears. Serviceberries do best in sun and form a pleasing vase-shape up to about 25 feet tall. The blooms give way to small berries that turn from green to pink to purple to blue. Although you may never see the blue phase as the birds eat them as fast as they ripen. Serviceberry has a slew of common names: shadbush, shadblow, juneberry, sarvisberry and several others. This tree also has excellent fall color.

Serviceberry flowers

Serviceberry fall color

Native plums are also early to bloom. The species known as Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) forms medium sized (up to 6 feet usually) thickets on sunny roadsides with creamy white blooms that turn to white when fully expanded.

Chickasaw plum, blooming on roadsides now

So next time you're out and about you can recognize some of those spring-blooming roadside trees.




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Christopher (Louisiana - Zone 8a) - 04/09/2013

These are really beautiful trees! I love the color they bring to the landscape this time of year.
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