What’s blooming?

by Terry Huang, Living Collections Fellow

May 31, 2018

Rhododendron 'Toucan'

What’s blooming?

As spring continues to progress towards summer, more and more shrubs and trees are blossoming throughout the Arnold Arboretum collections. Here are a few highlights to catch right now.

Liriodendron (tulip tree) is a genus of deciduous trees known for their distinctive crab-like leaves. Their cup-like flowers echo the structure of a magnolia flower and that’s because they both belong to the same family: Magnoliaceae. The genus Liriodendron comprises only two species: L. tulipifera, native to eastern North America, and L. chinense, native to China and northern Vietnam. Our Liriodendron trees are beginning to bloom right now, so if you want to take a closer look at their flowers, there are two trees (147-2000*A, B) near the Hunnewell Building with low branches. These two trees (Liriodendron tulipifera x chinense) are man-made hybrids with flowers exhibiting traits from both its parents.

Liriodendron tulipifera x chinense

Close-up of Liriodendron tulipifera x chinense (147-2000*A) flower. Photo by Jon Hetman.

Our Rhododendron collection is picking up steam with many more species and hybrids coming into bloom every day. For hot colors and spicy-lily fragrance, look for deciduous azaleas planted all around the Arboretum. For softer colors and puffy blossoms, head over to Rhododendron Dell where the evergreen types are putting on a serene show. Oh, and while you’re out, please don’t forget to visit their more demure cousin in the heather family (Ericaceae), Enkianthus.

Rhododendron 'Lady Roseberry'

Rosy-scarlet flowers of Rhododendron ‘Lady Roseberry’ (632-61*B). Photo by Jon Hetman.

Rhododendron Dell

Rhododendron Dell. Photo by Jon Hetman.

Enkianthus campanulatus

Sweet striped flowers of Enkianthus campanulatus (425-30*A). Photo by Jon Hetman.

If you haven’t enjoyed enough lilac exposure, the late flowering types are at their peak now. Interested in something different, but in the same family (Oleaceae, or olive family)? I’ve got just the tree for you—Chionanthus virginicus (white fringe tree). Its hazy cloud of white flowers are sadly short-lived, but they make up for it with their delicate nature and sweet scent.

Syringa josikaea

Flowers of Syringa josikaea (592-2003*B). Photo by Jon Hetman.

Chionanthus virginicus

Feathery flowers of Chionanthus virginicus (1029-88*D). Photo by Jon Hetman.

Up on Bussey Hill directly behind the lilacs, the Catalpa trees are beginning to bloom. Their large dramatic flowers have been popping in the recent heat revealing their intricate veining and spots within. If you find that their flowers and leaves are quite tropical in appearance—you’re not off! Catalpa belongs in the large and predominately tropical family Bignoniaceae. If you have traveled anywhere much warmer than New England you may have bumped into its more famous cousin, Jacaranda.

Catalpa bungei

Flaring flowers of Catalpa bungei (12927*A). Photo by Jon Hetman.

Please come and enjoy all the burgeoning life at the Arboretum! Walk anytime from dawn to dusk, or join a free landscape tour offered Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:30am and on Sundays at 1:00pm. See more tour opporunities here.

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