We all marvel at the native trees in bloom—redbud, dogwood, serviceberry—that produce showy flowers. They're spectacular and their displays are designed to attract insects, their pollinators.
But what about the trees that aren't so flashy? These generally have less noticeable flowers that produce lots and lots of tiny pollen grains. They are pollinated by the wind.
Nature is full of understated wonders. With this in mind: Have you ever noticed the flowers produced by American sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua). The male parts are greenish with rufous fuzzy hair found in ball-like clusters on the end of the branches; the female flowers are drooping ball-like blooms that dangle below the branches. And when the wind blows, the pollen goes all over the place. Some of it may actually find the receptive female flowers. The rest can make you sneeze.
For a closer look, the sweetgums are in bloom at the nature center.
- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales