Tree Buds

Have you ever really looked at the buds on a tree or shrub as they open in the spring? They are fun to observe and to learn about. They come in lots of different shapes and colors, and they have been there, waiting to grow, all winter.


Think about when a tree or shrub has lots of sun energy to make food. That would be during the summer, right? So by the end of the summer, trees and shrubs should have stored extra food that could be used to make new parts to get the next growing year off to a good start. This is just what happens. Try to remember to look at trees and shrubs around your home or school at the end of the summer. If you look closely, you will see that buds are already there to grow the next spring’s leaves and flowers.

As spring weather starts to warm up, the buds that have been waiting dormant all winter (sleeping, not growing and changing) will start to grow. Their first change is that they will get bigger. They will be easier to see. People who didn’t notice them before sometimes think that the buds just showed up on the trees and shrubs now, but we know better.

See if you can find a magnifying glass to use to look at the buds of some of the trees and shrubs near your home or school. If not, you can make one by filling a clear, round bottle with water. Hold the bottle of water close to a bud and look through the side of the bottle. It should make things look larger.


Here are some things to look for:

What color is the bud?

Is each bud growing alone on the tree or is more than one bud growing close together?

Are there hairs on the bud?

Is the bud covered with scales that look a little like shingles on a roof or scales on a fish? 

If there are scales, how do you think they help the tree or shrub?

As the buds start to open, do any parts fall off? Do any insects or other animals visit the opening buds? Do leaves open out of the bud? Do flowers come from the bud? Do both leaves and flowers come from the same bud?

Try to visit the trees or shrubs at least a couple of times a week for a quick look. Go more often as you start to see changes. You might try drawing pictures of what the buds look like. Make new pictures as the buds change. Do they get bigger? Do they change color? Are leaves or flowers starting to show? Do some tree buds open before others? If they do, is it because they are on different kinds of trees or shrubs? Because they are in a warmer spot? How can you find out?

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