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Photo: Scott Hussey - Fotolia.com

Red, White and Bloom

July 3, 2013

Dusk has fallen. Blankets whip open in the air and lawn chairs settle along sidewalks as families nestle into their open views of the still, darkened sky. Fireflies flutter through the blanket of humidity that foreshadows the bursts of heat soon to come.

And then, a spark of light suddenly illuminates a backdrop of light clouds and shining stars. A single "boom" follows slightly after, initiating hushed tones and eyes directed up high. The air fills with excitement, and a harmony of "oooh's" and "ahhh's" begins. The show is on.

As the colorful arrangements of fireworks expand across the sky, the tall tree tops lining the horizon create a nearly perfect viewing window of the patriotic masterpiece. A few select branches appear as silhouettes before the bursting backdrop, casting slight shadows on the ground below.

But several trees present a show of their own throughout the summer months. These late bloomers "wow" us with vibrant, bountiful blossoms in a season when we least expect it -- like that single flash of light and accompanying "boom" in the still of the evening air.

Japanese tree lilac
Japanese tree lilac blossom | Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

The Japanese tree lilac is one of the first to start the show. Its linen-white, feathery blossoms emerge in late spring to foreshadow the flowering patterns of other tree species soon to come. Species such as the Amur maackia, a northeast-Asia native species, utilize subtle flowering patterns to complement the stars of the show, including the bright yellow blossoms you'll find on the golden rain tree in midsummer.

sourwood in bloom
Sourwood in bloom | Photo: David Stephens, Bugwood.org

And the sourwood tree, a species native to the U.S., blooms at just about this time of year, as if to symbolize the birth of our nation with its finger-like blossoms that ultimately hang toward the ground in chains of white flowers.

Whether you're attending one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the country or waving handfuls of sparklers through the air, remember you can enjoy Mother Nature's displays of bursting color all season long with help of a few special species of trees. Daylight will season their blossoms with sparkling sunlight, illuminating the vivacity of natural scenes-views that will last long after the blink of an eye.

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