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  • Writer's pictureTony Renta

Springing Forward

Spring has sprung! Well, wait. Not yet. We have set our clocks forward an hour, but spring still seems to be alluding us here in the deep south. The official first day of spring is right around the corner – March 20th – so maybe the weather and our natural environment will take note and begin waking up.

The state of Alabama is the fifth most floristically diverse state in the United States – what does this mean? Alabama boasts over 4,000 native plant species! Here are a few native species that pop out first in the spring. So, take a stroll through your neighborhood, park, or closest woods and see if you can spot one of these early bloomers.

Native plant resources:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: The Native Plant Information Network


Scientific name: Cornus florida

Common names: Flowering dogwood

Bloom time: April to May

Where to find: This species grows in the understory layer under larger trees in the forest. Dogwoods grow well on flats and on lower or middle slopes, not as well on upper slopes and ridges.

How to grow: Grow in well-drained soils in partial shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils.

Height: 15 to 30 feet

Image credit:

1. Cornus florida_yard -

2. Cornus florida_wild -

Scientific name: Rhododendron alabamense

Common names: Alabama azalea

Bloom time: Early to mid spring

Where to find: Dry, open woods and rich, wooded slopes. The shrub has snowy white flowers with a prominent yellow blotch and a distinct lemon-spice fragrance.

How to grow: Grow in shady spots with acidic and well-drained soil.

Height: 5 to 6 feet

Image credit:

Scientific name: Aquilegia canadensis

Common names: Eastern Columbine

Bloom time: Late winter to early spring

Where to find: Forests, woodlands, and rock outcrops.

How to grow: Perfect for woodland gardens planted in masses or semishady borders.

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Scientific name: Anemone virginiana

Common names: Thimbleweed

Bloom time: May, June, July

Where to find: Woodlands, Forest Edges, Prairies, Meadows, Fields

How to grow: Dry or moist, rich, acid soils.

Height: 1 to 2 feet

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