One of the Earliest Spring Blossoms in the State

By Claire Jaeger Mountain

Look up to the trees in late March in Minnesota and you’re likely to find something unexpected: flowers! Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) trees are one of the earliest blossoms in the state and flower even before the leaves emerge. These green-yellow or red flowers all bloom at once on particularly nice days, as if Mother Nature herself breathed magic into the trees. The tiny cheerleader’s pom-pom flowers cluster in ½-inch groups of 3-6. When the whole tree flowers it appears as though it has been engulfed in a beautiful red haze like the tree is cheering on spring, coaxing it out of hibernation after a long winter.

In each cluster, there may be male or female flowers, and occasionally both. The male flowers have an stamen which holds the wind-distributed pollen, and the male flowers appear green-yellow. Female flowers have a stigma which collects the pollen, and these flowers have red coloring. Because the trees are fertilized with wind, no fancy petals to attract insects are needed, so you won’t see petals on these compact blossoms. Once the pollen has been blown away by the breeze, the male flowers wither and die. The female blossoms, too, will lose their stigma but the flower soon starts to grow the fruit (whirligig seeds, helicopter seeds) and remain red in color for many more weeks. Take some time to look at these beautiful early bloomers, because they only flower for a few days!

Silver maple trees are visible at many floodplain areas. Hotspots to see these blooming silver maples in our National Park include Lilydale Regional Park, Crosby Farm Regional Park, Hidden Falls Regional Park, Fort Snelling State Park. (2019 Update: However, if you plan on visiting these trees, please use extreme caution as these parks are flooding.)