Blossoms of Acer saccharinum
It's early spring in south central Kentucky, and the silver maples are blooming (a state that is called "inflorescence". Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) flowers are small, but they're noticeable because they don't have much visual competition this time of the year.
The blossoms in these photos would fall on the "spectacular" end of the silver maple blossom spectrum. This tree has large, brilliantly red flowers. In full bloom, it's a joy to the eyes in a landscape that is still wearing winter's drab colors.
The silver maple flowers in Steven J. Baskauf's photo on the Vanderbilt University website have a more subdued, more typical, reddish tone. Normal colors of silver maple flowers include shades of greenish-yellow.
I think the flowers in my photos are females. Flikr user Gavatron has a good photo of the male silver maple flower. Both male and female flowers may be borne on the same tree -- but not always. The U.S. Forest Service Sylvics Manual explains:
Four types of trees, with respect to sex expression, have been observed: all male flowers; all female flowers but with rudimentary pistils; mostly male with a few females; and mostly male with a few females and a scattering of hermaphroditic flowers. (Source)
Of course, the male flowers produce pollen, and that means that some people are having allergy problems, even though it's just mid-March.
The flowers are a food source for various songbirds, squirrels, and other wildlife. I was reminded of this last year after our big ice storm, when I watched a tiny chickadee land on a broken silver maple branch in our yard, peck the ice off a flower bud, and eat it.
Silver maples have their faults, but we won't go into all that today. Today, we'll just enjoy the blossoms.