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Mariton: Tree Flowers

April 24, 2016

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Everyone know that trees like Magnolias, Cherries and or Dogwoods have flower blossoms, but all trees have flowers*. I often tell people that seeds come from flowers and flowers make seeds.  While this may not technically be true, for children and most adults it makes people aware of a flower’s real purpose – reproduction.  Some flowers also provide nectar to entice pollinators, and coincidentally feed butterflies and hummingbirds.  But all flowers have pollen, some is carried by the wind, some by insects, some by other animals.  A flower’s main job is reproduction.

Going back to flowers make seeds, most people don’t think about tree flowers if they aren’t showy like a Magnolia’s Blossom. Oaks, in fact, have flowers.  They aren’t very showy, but they produce acorns.

Sassafras blossom

Sassafras blossom

So here are some trees that some don’t think about flowering. The Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) has a delicate small yellow flower that lights up Mariton’s forest edges in spring.

Pawpaw

Pawpaw

The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) has this brown-purple flower that develops into a tasty fruit (that of course holds seeds).

*Gymnosperms ( trees like pine, spruce, cedars and ginko) technically don’t have flowers. Their seeds are naked, and angiosperms (true flowers) seeds are surrounded by an ovule. But gymnosperms have unisexual reproductive parts that serve similar purposes.  Gymnosperms have male cones that produce pollen, and female cones where seeds develop.  Gymnosperms’ seed come from cones that serve the same basic function as a flower.  This is more technical than most people (including me) care to know, so I don’t feel guilty when I say that seeds come from flowers.

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