As the warmer temperatures finally arrive this spring, and gardeners turn their attention to the ground, my gaze turns upward to the glorious array of trees that will flower in faithful succession.

Over the years, thanks to the work of city staff and residents, our Forest City is bedecked with a magnificent variety of trees. Several of them sport especially showy or fragrant flowers that are often missed by the many people who pass by every day.

Among the early show-stoppers are the white blossoms of the star magnolia. A grand example lords over a garden in the elbow of Pine Street. Another twinkles in front of the Nickelodeon on Temple. We may be more familiar with the porcelain pink petals of the Saunders magnolia, which blooms a bit later, but the bright white star magnolia is the first to light up the brown backdrop of early spring.

Then comes the riot of cherry blossoms. More than one are gathered on Chadwick, Vaughan, Carleton and Morning streets, and grace the entrances of City Hall and Sapporo restaurant. Smaller trees are like delicate dancers, while the blossoms of large, older trees seem to say, “See, I can still thrill you.”

Speaking of dancers, the whirling dervish of the dogwood tree flings out petals of pink and cream in endless layered planes that would dazzle the eye of any cubist. The 40-foot Florida dogwood that fills the Portland High School atrium is a stunning example.

Crabapple flowers soon follow, with a wonderful array along Franklin Arterial, waking up daily commuters to the explosion of spring. Suburban drivers from the north will notice a bounty of fluffy white blossoms of black locust trees that are clustered along Interstate 295 south, near the city line.

Later in June come the lindens, one of the most fragrant trees of spring. The Back Cove walking trail is loaded with them, providing a stroll through a veritable perfume bottle when they flower. Their yellow, miniature paint brush blossoms pop out from pinhead pods, with an outsized scent that belies their tiny bloom.

Last but not least the catalpa, my favorite of the season. Their white blossom clusters on bright green canopies of large teardrop leaves are the snows of spring. You can see them at Deering Oaks, along State Street and Park Avenue, and on the drive out Washington Avenue. Stop and get a close look sometime. Their flowers are utterly orchid-like, with white fluted throats that are streaked with butter yellow and deep maroon. And their light, evanescent scent is like no other, but you have to catch them early, right after they open.

These are just a few spring treats of Portland’s trees. As Robert Frost says in his famous poem, “Nature’s first green is gold/Her hardest hue to hold/ Her early leaf’s a flower/But only so an hour.” Check out the trees in your own daily viewshed wherever you are – and soon, before this annual season of surprise is over.


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