All of the popular fruit trees produce flowers. Otherwise, they could not produce fruit. The stone fruits, such as almond, apricot, cherry, peach, plum and prune, bloom very impressively this time of year. The pomme fruits, such as apple and pear, bloom about as prolifically shortly afterward, followed lastly by related but rare quince.
The difference between these trees and their counterparts known as flowering trees is not so much the flowers, but the fruit. Flowering is something of a euphemism for trees that might otherwise be known as fruitless, since they produce either uselessly small fruit, or no fruit at all.
This may seem silly to those who enjoy growing fresh fruit. However, fruit trees require so much pruning in winter, and can be so messy if the fruit does not get harvested. The flowering trees provide the profuse bloom without so much maintenance and potential mess. Because they were developed as ornamental trees, their flowers are more impressive, with many more shades of pink, as well as white. Many have big and fluffy double flowers.
Flowering cherry and plum are the most popular of the flowering stone fruit trees. Most flowering plums have purplish foliage, so are commonly known as purple-leaf plum. Flowering almond, apricot, prune and peach are relatively rare. Some purple-leaf plum can produce small but messy plums as they mature.
Flowering pear is more often known as fruitless pear. Ironically, it can produce enough tiny pear fruit to be messier than other flowering fruit trees. Flowering pear blooms only white, and is not as florific as the other flowering trees, but grows large enough to be a mid-sized shade tree, and has the advantage of remarkable foliar color in autumn. Evergreen pear is an entirely different sort of tree that only blooms well if the weather is just so, and lacks fall color (because it is semi-evergreen).
Flowering apples are known as flowering crabapples. Unlike the other flowering trees, many flowering crabapples develop a sloppy branch structure if not pruned almost like trees that produce fruit. Yet, the weirdest of the flowering trees is the flowering quince, which is not even the same genus as fruiting quince. It develops into a thicket that blooms before everything else. Fruiting quince instead matures into a rampant tree, and blooms after the other fruit trees.
Like the flowering cherry that blooms a bit earlier, flowering crabapple provides impressively abundant spring bloom before foliation in spring. Both may have single, semi-double or double flowers in various shades ranging from white to rich pink. Some flowering crabapples though have nearly red flowers. Flowering crabapples get slightly larger, more than 20 feet tall and broad; but some stay as short as five feet, and others get taller than 30 feet Some have bronzy or purplish foliage through summer. The half inch to nearly two inch wide yellow, orange or red fruit can be colorful into autumn, and some makes good jelly; but it can be messy.
Horticulturist, arborist and garden columnist, Tony Tomeo assesses the horticultural correctness of landscapes, and inspects trees of environmental prominence from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.