Spring is officially under way in the lovely Pacific Northwest!

Here’s a small peek at a few of the many plants here at the Washington Park Arboretum that are showing off their unique spring features.

1)                 Cercis canadensis                                                   Eastern Redbud

Photo of Eastern Redbud
Shea Cope
Cercis canadensis

Close-up photo of Eastern Redbud
Shea Cope
Close-up photo of Cercis canadensis
  • One can’t help but admire this small, often multi-stemmed flowering tree as its glowing, purple-pink buds break out in spring through early summer.
  • With stunning cultivars such as ‘Appalachian Red’ and ‘Forest Pansy’ being highlighted in botanic gardens and arboreta, popularity has soared over the past several decades. It is now a favorite among home owners and horticulture professionals alike.
  • The pictured specimens are located along the Arboretum Drive at the south entrance of the Sorbus Collection. You can also find one at the northwest corner of the Graham Visitors Center.
  • Native to eastern North America.

2)        Metasequoia glyptostroboides                                           Dawn Redwood

Photo of Dawn Redwood
Shea Cope
Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Close-up photo of Dawn Redwood
Shea Cope
Close-up photo of Metasequoia glyptostroboides
  • This amazing tree was thought to be extinct and only known in its fossil form until a grove was discovered in China in the early 1940s.
  • Its feathery, lime-green new foliage contrasts beautifully with its muscular, cinnamon- colored bark.
  • As one of very few species of deciduous conifers, this tree shows off with a display of rusty-orange fall color before dropping its needles for the winter.
  • These giants can be found towering over Rhododendron Glen.

3)          Pinus attenuata                                                              Knobcone Pine

Close-up photo of Knobcone Pine
Shea Cope
Close-up photo of Pinus attenuata

Photo of Knobcone Pine pollen cones
Shea Cope
Photo of Pinus attenuata pollen cones
  • Native to the Coast Range Mountains of southern Oregon and northern California, these tough trees prefer dry, rocky soil.
  • Unless exposed to fire, the seed cones can take over 20 years to open and can sometimes be found embedded in branch and trunk wood as a result. They have spikey “knobs” on the scales opposite to where they attach to the branch.
  • The pollen cones are an exceptionally bright orange this year on our young collection located at the Cascadia Forest Garden, along its sunny switchbacks.

4)              Torreya californica                                                          California Nutmeg

Photo of California Nutmeg
Shea Cope
Torreya californica

Close-up photo of California Nutmeg
Shea Cope
Close-up photo of Torreya californica
  • This small evergreen tree is endemic to California as its name would suggest. However, it is not related to the true nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) from which the nutmeg spice originates.
  • Historically, the oil-rich seeds were used as food by indigenous peoples. The fine roots were useful in basket weaving and the strong wood made exceptional bows. It’s even been documented that the tree’s sharp, yew-like needles have been used for tattooing.
  • It is a dioecious plant, meaning the male and female cones are borne on separate individuals. Both male and female specimens can be observed flowering in contrast, just west of the Lake Washington Boulevard bridge.

5)             Ribes sanguineum                                                            Flowering Currant

Photo of Flowering Currant
Shea Cope
Ribes sanguineum

Close-up photo of Flowering Currant
Shea Cope
Close-up photo of Ribes sanguineum
  • Its leaves emerge in tandem with dangling racemes of flowers, ranging from pure white to dark pink depending on the variety or cultivar.
  • This medium-sized shrub attracts hummingbirds with its flowers and other birds with the fruit produced thereafter. It also hosts a number of butterfly species.
  • Many variants can be found along the trails of the Pacific Connections Garden.
  • Native to western United States and Canada.