Friday, November 27, 2009

A Tree-spotter's Guide to Buds: part 1


A beech Fagus sylvatica bud. It always seems to me that buds are under-appreciated natural objects, not just because of their inherent beauty but because that explosion of greenery that we call spring is already pre-packaged inside, protected by bud scales but ready to unfold just as soon as a winter's chill breaks the bud's dormancy.


Charcoal-black ash Fraxinus excelsior buds on grey twigs are unmistakeable. Some buds will burst to reveal a mass of crimson stamens in early spring, others will burst much later to unfurl their foliage. Ash is always the last native tree to come into leaf in Britain.


Hazel Corylus avellana buds, with next year's catkins already formed and ready to elongate and shed pollen next February. Hazel twigs have bristly hairs on their surface. The leaves only unfurl after the catkins have shed their pollen, so as not to inhibit the flow of airborne pollen.


These are the distinctive winged fruits of hornbeam Carpinus betulinus, that cling to the twigs long after leaf fall. You can just see one of the small brown nuts attached to one of the bracts, bottom right.....


... and these are hornbeam buds, which are not quite so distinctive.


A sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus bud, which is particularly attractive in spring when it swells, elongates and in many trees becomes flushed with purple pigments.


And finally, a horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum 'sticky bud', with the horse shoe-shaped scar of one of last summer's leaf stalks. For generations of children (me included) who went to rural schools that had a 'nature table', the annual ritual of cutting these buds in early spring and watching them unfold in a jam-jar of water was an annual, memorable ritual that became an enduring totem of spring. For a close look at the marvel of microscopic packaging inside one of these buds, hop over to http://beyondthehumaneye.blogspot.com/2009/11/marvel-of-miniaturisation.html

For part 2 see http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.com/2009/12/tree-spotters-guide-to-buds-part-2.html

For a Tree-Spotter's Guide to Fruits and Seeds, visit http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.com/2010/10/tree-spotters-guide-to-fruits-and-seeds.html

For more posts on tree ID click here

16 comments:

  1. Phil, once again an inspiring post. It's the small things about us that are often the best. Will try and look harder.

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  2. Excellent set of shots to accompany your guide Phil. Fascinating facts to go with them too.
    The bud of the Ash reminds me of an animals foot.

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  3. I'd forgotten all about the 'sticky bud' ritual. Thanks for reminding me

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  4. Marvellous post, I've always been fascinated by buds particularly the fact that they are visible long before they sprout. Thanks Phil.

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  5. I really enjoyed that post Phil. Thanks.

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  6. I will never cease to be amazed by the amount of stuff that appears like magic when you just add water to a horse chestnut twig. I did this a few years ago with my kids but you inspire me to do it again next spring - except this time I'll have the terrific close up photos to hand from your other blog to explain what's going on. Just the job.

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  7. Hi Keith, yes those spade-like terminal buds in ash are very distinctive aren't they?

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  8. Hi Adrian, I guess that in winter, when there's not so much to see, you tend to take more notice of the small stuff... I know I do.

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  9. Hi Citybirding, I wonder if schools still have nature tables???

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  10. Hello Toffeeapple, they have a wonderful air of expectation about them don't they? So much potential, so beautifully packaged...

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  11. Thanks Steve, am working on part 2 now...

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  12. Hi Nyctalus, it's interesting to dissect a 'sticky bud' scale by scale, once they begin to burst, and tease out all the components - there's an amazing amount of stuff packaged in there!

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  13. Looking forward to part two. I am hopeless at identifying most trees so these will be a real boon.

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  14. Thanks John, bark patterns are interesting in winter too... I guess that when there's not so much to look at, then it's time to turn attention to the subtler aspects of natural history..

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  15. Thanks Roy, all down to autofocus, autoexposure, sunlight and a sky for background... wish I could claim the credit for skill

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