Cottonwood - months after blooming

It may seem a bit early to be reporting on what’s blooming in the park, but it occurred to me that there are many plants blooming there now…and you can’t see any of the flowers! What can I be talking about?

The cottonwoods in town have been blooming for over six weeks now. What? They don’t even have any leaves yet! Those trees bloom? Well, sure they do. But the flowers involved are tiny and you rarely see them. The flowers are too tiny for any flying pollinators to take much notice either. Hence these plants are wind pollinated. So the flowers don’t have to be showy; they just have to be able to catch wind-born pollen. This wind-born pollen is also very tiny (you may have notice yellow dust on your car at some point recently). It is this type of pollen that is most responsible for causing allergy symptoms to flare. In about another six weeks, you’ll start to see the cottony seeds of the cottonwoods blowing around. Those seeds are the result of the blooming and pollination that has been going on since late February.

And you know all those elm seeds that are going to start raining down on us in a few weeks? Yup – that means the elms are all flowering and pollinating right now too.


Male cones on juniper

Another plant that has been “blooming” for several weeks is the juniper. Ok, junipers are evergreens and don’t technically have flowers, but there are male and female plants and each of them has their own type of cone. And pollen has been flying out of the male cones for almost six weeks. (Yes, another source of symptoms for allergy sufferers.) And the blue “berries” that you’ll see later this year on female junipers are the result of the pollination going on now. Any blue “berries” you see now are from previous years. These are actually modified cones and have either one or two seeds in them.


Female cones on juniper

Monument Valley Park is home to many cottonwoods, elms, and junipers, so there has been something “blooming” there for weeks now!