Identify blossoming trees in Chattanooga, TN

This is a saucer magnolia of Chinese/botanical origin. | Photo provided Reader Kathy P.

If you can see through the pollen, you’ve probably noticed that the city’s trees are blossoming beautifully. 

Reader Kathy P. recently asked us to help identify a pink tree + it spurred our interest

We talked to the City of Chattanooga’s Forester Pete Stewart to root out information on the early bloomers + give us the knowledge we’ve been pining for

🌳 Magnolias 

The tree in the above photo — the one our reader asked about — is a saucer magnolia of Chinese/botanical origin, Stewart said. (See the reader-sbmitted photo above.)

  • The magnolias blooming here include Southern magnolia, sweetbay magnolia + tulip tree/tulip poplar. They can flower through June
  • They are recognizable by “showy flowers and a lemony smell from crushed plant tissue.”
  • The tulip poplar is native to East Tennessee + is the state tree that has yellow, tulip-shaped flowers that bloom between May-June. 

🍒 Cherry trees 

🍁 Maple

  • Red maples are native to East Tennessee
  • They are one of the earliest to bloom, starting in late winter, continuing through spring. 
  • They flower with clusters of small red flowers from the branch tips.  

🌳 Dogwood  

  • The flowering dogwood is native to Tennessee, and there are many cultivars — which are varieties produced by cultivation — that have flowers that can be white, red, or pink and bloom in late April-May. 
  • Kousa dogwood trees originate in Japan and can have white or pink flowers that bloom from May-June. 

❤️ Redbuds 

  • Redbuds have zig zag branches + heart-shaped leaves
  • Eastern redbuds are native to East Tennessee and bloom through April. 
  • They have purple-pink flowers that come from branch tips and sides.

🍐 Bradford/callery pear 

While it’s flowering right now, it’s easy to see just how many areas have been taken over by this tree.” – Pete Stewart 

  • Although Bradford pear trees were bred to be sterile, non-sterile forms have continually escaped cultivation and now it’s an invasive species in most Eastern states, including Tennessee. 
  • They have thick branches + small white flowers

ProTip: Look closely at the trees

Except for conifers and ginkgos, all other trees are flowering plants + most flower in spring. “There are many trees with small or camouflaged flowers that don’t stand out from a distance but are remarkable up close. Most American elms have already bloomed and are fruiting right now. They don’t look like typical flowers or fruit, but that’s exactly what they are.” – Pete Stewart

Green leaves hanging at the end of a branch of an American elm tree. The leaves cover the fruit.
American elm fruit | Photo provided by Pete Stewart


small or camouflaged flowers that are pink and budding from stems of an American elm tree
American elm flower | Photo provided by Pete Stewart