Sunday, March 15, 2009

Many white Blooms, many species

Here in The Woodlands, we have a wide variety of white blooming understory trees. Right now, we see the end the blooming season for Dogwoods and are at the height of the blooming season for several varieties including the Fringetree and the Hawthorne. Today, we focus on the Fringetree also known as "Old Man's Beard" which we see blooming all over our community. I prefer calling it Old Man's Beard. A person can drive down almost any main road artery and observe this tree amongst others in the forest, including Woodlands Parkway, Panther Creek, and Grogan's Mill.
Understory trees almost always do better exposed to a half a day of sun, so they thrive on the boundary of wooded areas. Unlike its competitor, the Hawthorne, this is a tree with large leaves, having a crown more like a larger tree, reaching up and out. The Hawthorne on the other hand is more social and stays lower like a spiny bush. Both have a blooming cycle peak at about the same time.

Its flowers as you can see are like fringe hanging on a skirt and tend to droop, giving the appearance of human hair from a distance, thus the beard. Interestingly enough, the heavy bloomer of this species is the male. These photos are male specimens. Now you know why I prefer the name "Old Man's Beard". The tree produces blue berry fruit in the fall. It is slow growing and can be easily smothered by other brush-like plants. Like all white blooming plants, it has survived over the ages in the forest by attracting butterflies, bees and other pollinators using its bright flowers to stand out, like a shining gem in the forest. White reflects all the available light whereas dark flowers absorbs the light, making them less visible.

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Parsley Hawthorne
Old Man's Beard
Flowering Dogwood

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