Spring hath begun and that means many things from birds migrating, to weather shifting; grasses growing and water is flowing. Insect larva is hatching and mature insects that stayed deep in tree bark or buried under leaf mulch all winter are crawling out on warm days to begin their spring lifestyle.The trees are an interesting bunch in spring that I find most people know little about. The trees not only produce the fresh green leaves that bring joy to our hearts after the long winter but also flowers. Of course not all trees, and very few northern hemisphere natives produce large showy flowers like the southern magnolia. Nonetheless they do create flowers high up in the canopy. The first bees and flies to come out in early spring feed upon the pollen located high up from those flower sources that many people rarely see. The noble big toothed aspen and the vibrant red maples give birth to small flowers in their lofty branches long before leaves ever come out. The same can be said for the flexible willows and rejuvenating birches. As a matter of fact most northern hemisphere trees pop flowers long before they push out leaves. The question is, why?
Have you ever wondered why most tree flowers appear before the leaves? Ever wonder why the trees don’t try to protect the fragile flowers with leaves and so produce leaves before flowers? Most of these flowers appear before the insects are warm enough to come out of their winter hiding places. Doesn’t that also seem strange since most folks know that insects pollinate?
The fact is the trees that rely upon the wind to pollinate their flowers push out flowers before the leaves appear. This allows less interference during pollination since the leaves are not in the way. Weeks after the mass tree pollination has taken place the leaves begin to appear with their many shades of vibrant green, giving the long waited look of life back to the brown landscape.
The trees that rely upon insects to pollinate their flowers, such as Bass (American Linden) wait until after their leaves are out to push out flowers. This assures the flowers will get adequately pollinated by the insects that take shelter in the leaf foliage. The bees and flies hunt for these high level flowers amongst the thick protection of leaves.