Florida is home to many beautiful flowering trees. Along with being aesthetically pleasing, they are an important part of the ecosystem by filtering carbon, providing oxygen, and lowering temperatures and noise. While there are many trees native to Florida, there are many non-native and invasive species brought to the Sunshine State by European colonizers as well. These take resources from native species, often killing them. Here we’ll explore the magical world of white flowering trees indigenous to Florida.
#1 Ashe Magnolia (Magnolia ashei)
The Ashe magnolia is native to a select few counties in the Florida panhandle. Some botanists consider this tree a subspecies of the Magnolia macrophylla while others consider it a unique species. The name comes from William Willard Ashe, a former member of the United States Forest Service. It is currently unknown what native tribes named the tree before colonization.
Ashe magnolias are small, with the tallest individuals growing to 35 feet tall. It is deciduous and boasts a broad, rounded top. The leaves are between two and three feet long and up to a foot wide. The upper side of the leaf is green, while the underside is a whitish hue. As you get closer to the stem, the leaves get smaller in size.
The species is a white flowering tree known for its gorgeous blossoms. They grow at the end of stout stems and are surrounded by small leaves. The creamy white color is as distinct as the fresh fragrance.
The Ashe magnolia is a perennial that blooms from March to June.
#2 Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia)
The Chickasaw plum tree is native to the entire state of Florida. The name comes from the Chickasaw native tribe who cultivated the white flowering tree. The plum can either be eaten directly off the tree or turned into a jam or jelly.
The trees can range between 15 and 30 feet in height. The trunk is short and crooked, while the top is flat. The white blossoms cluster near the top of the tree and give off a distinct, strong fragrance. The bark is scaly and nearly black. The plums range from a bright red to a pale yellow color and are edible when ripe.
The Chickasaw plum tree is a perennial that blooms from February to May.
# 3 Elder Tree (Sambucus canadensis)
The elder tree is common all across North America. The North American variety is classified as the Sambucus canadensis. The tree is also common in Europe and that species is classified as Sambucus nigra. The genus name Sambucus comes from the Italian word for the plant.
The elder tree produces trees that grow in a shrub-like manner. The trees can grow between 20 and 30 feet high. The leaves compound, are bright green, and cause the branches to droop towards the ground. The leaves have jagged edges and look waxy.
The white flowering trees have blossoms that appear in large clusters. They look similar to snow piling on pine trees. Unlike their northern and European cousins, the blooms of the Florida species lack a strong fragrance. Some varieties of elder trees in Florida will remain evergreen for the entire year.
While their berries can be cooked into delicious jams, pastries, and wines, they are toxic to humans, cats, and dogs when consumed raw. Elder trees are perennials that bloom in early summer between May and June.
#4 Swamp Azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum)
While not technically a white flowering tree, the swamp azaleas are native and such a common sight in Florida that they’ve earned a place on this list. The name comes from the habitats that this species thrives in, the murky swamps of the Eastern United States.
Swamp azaleas can grow up to five feet tall but up to 12 feet in width. The leaves cluster at the ends of branches and are quite small. They are green on both sides and can look waxy. In the fall, the leaves become wonderful shades of yellow, red, and sometimes purple before falling off in the winter.
The white flowers are small and have a whitish, lavender tube that extends out from the center. While the blooms smell delicious, all parts of the plant are highly toxic to humans. Honey made from the flowers could also be toxic to consume. The swamp azalea is perennial and blooms between May and August.
#5 Flatwoods Plums (Prunus umbellata)
The flatwoods plum tree is another variety of plum that is native to Florida. The tree is sometimes called the hog plum. This species is in the same family as the Chickasaw plum tree, and they both produce small, edible fruits.
Ranging between 15 and 20 feet in height, the white flowering trees have short, stocky trunks. The flattened crown can spread out up to 15 feet. The leaves droop, are green on both sides, and are serrated along the edges.
The white flowers are tiny and grow close to the branches. The scientific name Prunus umbellata references the rounded flower clusters, called umbels. The purple plums, once ripe, can be eaten directly off the tree or made into jams and jellies. Flatwoods plum trees are perennial and bloom between February and May.
#6 Possomhaw Holly (Viburnum nudum)
The possumhaw holly is native to the Florida panhandle. Because it loves wetlands, this tree is sometimes called the swamp holly. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the tree is typically found below 1,200 feet elevation levels. The red berries are consumed by opossums, among other animals, hence the name.
This species can grow anywhere between 15 and 30 feet tall. The branches are pale and scrawny, and they grow horizontally. The leaves are glossy, shaped like ovals, and have one split at the tip. They remain dark green until late fall when they turn a gorgeous yellow color. The leaves fall off in the winter, leaving the red berries (unless they’ve been consumed by animals).
The blossoms are small and resemble the color of white cream. They are not very fragrant but vivid against the dark green leaves.
The possumhaw holly is a perennial that blooms between March and May.
#7 ‘Royal White’ Redbud (Cercis canadensis f. alba)
Native to every part of Florida except the southern tip, the Royal White redbud tree is a common sight in the Sunshine State. The genus name comes from the Greek word kerkis, which means “weaver’s shuttle” (the seed pods resemble weaver’s shuttles).
The tree grows to be about 15 to 25 feet in height. The crown can spread up to 30 feet in diameter. The trunk of the tree is often short and twisted. The leaves are thin and slightly hairy on the underside.
The white blossoms are small, grow close to the branches, and are vibrant in color. There is no strong fragrance. The Royal White variety of the redbud tree was first discovered in 1940 by Royal Oakes of Bluffs in Illinois.
The Royal White redbud is perennial and blooms from March to April.
#8 Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
The southern magnolia is native to the panhandle and mid-east parts of Florida. The genus name Magnolia is named after the French botanist, Pierre Magnol.
The tree can grow up to 50 feet tall, with some growing as tall as 100 feet. The trunk is straight and thick, and the crown is conical. The leaves are smooth and have a texture similar to leather. They are shiny on top and resemble rust on the bottom.
The white flowering tree has stunning and fragrant blossoms. The flowers are shaped like cups and have six thick petals (which bruise easily on impact). During bloom, the flowers will open in the morning and close in the evening for a few days in a row. After shedding all stamens, the flower opens for a final time, turns brown, then disintegrates.
The southern magnolia is a perennial that blooms between March and June.
#9 Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum)
Walter’s viburnum is a tree native to Florida that attracts butterflies in the spring and birds and other animals in the fall. The species is part of the honeysuckle family and is named after Thomas Walter, a botanist from South Carolina.
The tree can grow up to 18 feet tall. The species usually has multiple trunks and a broad crown. The leaves look like wedges, are tapered at the base, and sometimes do not fall off in the winter. The flowers are tiny, smell delicious, and grow in clusters. In fall, the flowers are replaced by small, shiny black fruit.
Walter’s viburnum is a perennial and blooms between February and April.
#10 White Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida)
Another white flowering tree native to the Florida panhandle is the white dogwood. The dogwood tree is used by native tribes in North America to make ink, dyes, and jewelry, among other things.
The tree can grow to be anywhere from 15 to 25 feet tall. The crown is conical and compact, ranging between 20 and 25 feet wide. The species either has a single, short trunk, or multiple stocky trunks. The branches are tiered and lined with glossy, green leaves.
The white flowers take over the entire tree during bloom. They are flat, have no strong smell, and have four forked petals. The blossoms grow in clusters and give way to bright red or yellow fruit in the fall.
White flowering dogwoods are perennial and bloom between April to May.
Summary of White Flowering Trees in Florida
|Royal White Redbud
|White Flowering Dogwood Tree
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Dwbenjam
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.