If you are yearning for signs of spring, take a look at the swollen buds on the branches of backyard trees and shrubs.
Buds have been present since last summer, but often go unnoticed when competing for attention with a shroud of summer greenery or brilliant fall colors. Buds form at the base of the stalk where last year’s leaves were connected to the twigs.
Each bud contains a master plan of everything needed for new growth. These tiny packages contain small leaves or flowers with cells that rapidly divide and sugars for energy. This tender tissue is protected from winter’s drought by scales, hair or specially adapted leaves.
As if getting a signal from an internal clock, water is pumped back into the tree at the precise time and buds begin to swell. The tree, dormant for months, springs into life. The growth is spectacular. As much as 18 inches of new growth occurs in some trees in as little as two weeks.
Trees are usually not tricked into leafing out too early because of unseasonably warm weather. Trees use more reliable cues than temperature. The amount of daylight each day and chemical signals within their cells tell trees when it is the right time for bud growth.
Learn more about flowering spring trees in the MDC’s Field Guide.