Mar 16, 2022 - Things to Do

Everything you need to know about Atlanta's blooming trees

A close-up of red maple leaves
Can't beat a red maple. Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Honeycutt/Georgia Native Plant Society

Spring officially kicks off on March 20, and the bare-bones trees you notice on your commute to work or walks around the neighborhood are finally showing signs of life, beautiful life.

We spoke with Ellen Honeycutt, the chair of the Georgia Native Plant Society, about how to spot metro Atlanta's towering flowering giants — plus one not-so-good tree.

Bradford Pear: You're probably seeing this upright tree with bright white flowers and a distinctive smell everywhere. Unfortunately, it's invasive and non-native. "Fewer native plants equals fewer bugs equals fewer birds," Honeycutt says.

Red maple: The flowers on this native species are some of the earliest to bloom every spring, Honeycutt says, and the tree provides pollen and nectar for bees and seeds for birds. A good place to see the highly adaptable species are parking lots, she says.

A bee sits on the branch of a redbud tree showing off pink and purplish flowers
Bees love them some redbud. Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Honeycutt/Georgia Native Plant Society

Redbud: The name's somewhat of a misnomer, as the flowers on these spindly little trees are pinkish-purple. It's a popular tree for lining streets, and bees love them, Honeycutt says.

Serviceberry: Small white flowers make this beloved native tree stand out, and later in the season birds (and people) pluck the tasty berries. Notable fact: The name supposedly comes from early settlers, Honeycutt says.

  • According to one story, settlers thought the blooms signaled when the ground had thawed enough to bury people who died during the winter.

Fringe tree: Males have showy delicate white flowers and females produce dark blue berries in the fall, Honeycutt says. Call 'em Grancy Greybeard to impress hardcore tree huggers.

A close-up of the white clustered blooms of the flowering dogwood tree
Flowering dogwood. Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Honeycutt/Georgia Native Plant Society

Flowering dogwood: "If you're talking about the South, you're talking about the flowering dogwood and magnolias," Honeycutt says. This iconic tree shows off with white and pink blooms but can be susceptible to disease, according to Trees Atlanta.

Get smart: The above is just a small sampling. Learn more about our towering flowering buddies with Trees Atlanta's round-up of the metro region's 50 most well-known natives species.

Get out there: The Flowering Forest along John Lewis Freedom Parkway is a tribute to the civil rights leader. It starts blooming in early February, says Judy Yi of Trees Atlanta.

  • In the coming years, the joint project with the Freedom Park Conservancy and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will add thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers along the 1.5 mile parkway.

Also check out the Beltline Arboretum lining the trails and which changes with the seasons.

Or add your own bit of color by picking up a tree at the nonprofit's plant sale on April 2 and 9. Also on April 2, the intown chapter of GNPS will host a tour of native plant habitats.

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