Weather outlook favorable for spring dogwood display

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo - Spring began March 20, according to the calendar, but for many Missourians spring starts with the first blossoming of Missouri's native flowering trees. State officials say prospects are excellent for a good dogwood display this year.

The serviceberry (Amelanchier arobrea), redbud (Cercis canadensis) and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) all are native to Missouri. Serviceberry trees - also known as shadbush

bloom first, painting hillsides with splashes of bright white. Redbuds are next, sending out clusters of rose-purple flowers from late March through early May.

Dogwoods provide the season climax, normally reaching their blossoming peak in mid-April near the Arkansas border and two to three weeks later near Iowa. Pink dogwoods and other cultivated varieties often bloom earlier than their wild relatives. Even native varieties bloom earlier in cities, due to the warming effect of heat-retaining asphalt and concrete.

Weather plays a critical role in determining when flowering trees reach their scenic peak, and weather also can dramatically affect flowering duration. Serviceberry trees, redbuds and dogwoods all can bloom a week or two earlier than normal if March weather is unseasonably warm, as it was in 2007. By the same token, a hard freeze, such as the one that struck early in April that year can put an abrupt end to flowering.

Similarly, cool weather can retard blooming. Rainy, windy weather can cause redbud blossoms to drop early, and hot, dry weather in April sometimes shortens the dogwood display.

The serviceberry showing has been excellent so far and is well advanced over most of the state. Redbuds are just beginning to bloom in central Missouri, and dogwoods appear to be only days behind. However, parts of the Ozarks seem to be behind these trends, and dogwood bloom could be slightly delayed.

Overall, this year's weather seems favorable for a spectacular dogwood display. The long-range weather forecast from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center indicated spring conditions consistent with the average date of last frost of April 6 in St. Louis. Slightly above-normal temperatures throughout much of March could cause dogwood blossoming to peak a little early in this area. Kansas City foresters say they expect a peak dogwood bloom in mid-April, barring a hard, late freeze.

Redbud and dogwood fans have several favorite drives that offer particularly good viewing. These include:

  • Highway 19 between Montgomery City and Thayer;
  • Highway 5 between Versailles and Gainesville;
  • Highway 142 between Doniphan and Bakersfield;
  • Highway 72 between Cape Girardeau and Rolla;
  • Highway 63 between Kingdom City and Thayer;
  • I-44 between Eureka and Rolla;
  • Highway 50 between Eureka and Jefferson City;
  • Highway 60 between Poplar Bluff and Springfield.