Why do some trees blossom? And which trees flower?

Harvest mouse in blackthorn blossom
Blossom is a lovely sight after winter. It looks like everyone loves it! (Photo: David Chapman / Alamy Stock Photo)

You know spring is on the way when you spot a tree covered in masses of frothy blossom. And this year’s mild weather means it’s happening early in many parts of the country. Soon we’ll be seeing blossom showers and carpets of pretty petals on the ground.

Why do some trees blossom?

Strictly speaking, ‘blossom’ refers to the flowers of trees and shrubs that produce fleshy fruits with stones in the middle like cherry and plum trees.

The flowers are an important part of their reproductive process. They contain pollen and a sugary fluid called nectar which is delicious to flying insects such as bees, butterflies and beetles.

When they stop for a drink, the pollen gets stuck to their bodies and they carry it on to the next tree, which fertilises it so it’s able to produce seeds. This is called pollination.

Blossoms to spot in spring

Keep a look out for these over the coming months.

Blackthorn – this thorny shrub has clusters of small, white flowers with pink anthers (the little bobbles on stalks inside the flower ­– these contain the pollen). Blackthorn is likely to be the first blossom you’ll see as it flowers in March, even before the leaves appear.

Blackthorn blossom
Blackthorn blossom. (Photo: Colin Smith/WTML)

Wild cherry – look for clusters of white, cup-shaped flowers with five petals. They usually appear in April. The wild cherry tree is different from the pink variety you often see in parks and gardens.

A close up image of wild cherry blossom
Wild cherry. (Photo: Colin Smith/WTML)

Hawthorn – its blossom looks very similar to blackthorn but comes later. It’s often called May, after the month when it usually appears.

A cluster of hawthorn blossom
Hawthorn blossom. (Photo: Brian Legg/WTML)

Crab apple – pink and white blossom appears on this small, knobbly and twisted tree, usually in May.

Close up of pink and white crab apple blossom
Crab apple blossom. (Photo: Jane Corey/WTML)

Other trees that flower

Many other trees flower in spring too. The ash produces spiky clusters of tiny, purple flowers, the horse chestnut has pink and white flowers that look a bit like little candles, and the willow and hazel have fluffy, dangling catkins. Check out our blossom and catkin ID to help you spot them.

Not all trees are pollinated by insects. Some, such as willow and hazel, are wind pollinated – the pollen is shaken off the catkins by the breeze and blown to other trees. 

Blossom crafts for kids

Celebrate the coming of spring with these cheerful crafts.

  • Create a pretty blossom collage using pink and white tissue paper. You could also try it using plain popcorn instead of tissue – just stick it on your tree and paint some of it pink.
  • Okra, a vegetable also known as ladies’ fingers, is great for printing. Get your grown up to slice across it to reveal the flower-shaped pattern inside. It has some gloopy stuff inside so dab it with a tissue to dry it, then dip it in paint and print some gorgeous blossom clusters.
  • Blossom finger painting is a simple craft for babies and toddlers to enjoy.
  • Why not spend some extra time enjoying blossom with your littlest ones with our blossom shower activity?

Don’t forget to share your pictures of the beautiful blossoming trees you’ve spotted, and your own blossom craft creations, using #NatureDetectives.

Carry on with your spring adventure and head outdoors to spot some wildflowers. it's a wonderful time of year to get closer to nature and teach your little ones all about woods and trees!

Have you seen blossom this year?

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