In early winter, pollinators are often the last thing we expect to see in the landscape. But as the days start to warm our native bees and moths come out and stretch their wings. On days over 40 degrees F many species of bees, moths and wasps emerge from their winter homes ready to forage. Flowers can be hard to find this early but the pollinators know what to look for.
We usually associate pollinators with annual and perennial plants that flower during the summer but in early spring woody plants are where the food is. Vernal witchhazel begins blooming as early as late January and, while it is not a showy blossom, it provides an important food source. In March and April, things really get going as serviceberry, chokecherry and wild plum begin to flower (Amelanchier and Prunus).
Planting an early spring food source is an important part of creating a healthy pollinator habitat and woody plants provide the most reliable blooms from January until April, when perennials take over. Here are some of the top woody plants for early spring blooms.
January to March
Flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa
Forsythia cultivars like Meadowlark, Northern Sun, New Hampshire Gold and Northern Gold are reliable bloomers
Hazelnut, Corylus Americana
Vernal witchhazel, Hamamelis vernalis
April and May
Burning bush and eastern wahoo, Euonymus
Carolina Allspice, Calycanthus floridus
Fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus
Japanese Kerria, Kerria japonica
Nanking cherry, chokecherry and wild plum, Prunus
Star magnolia, Magnolia stellata