Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

March 28, 2009

Bud Wiser

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:09 pm

Quick, before they explode!  Tree buds, like bird eggs, have to structurally “die” before they can fully perform their life task – which is to protect tender new life until it is ready to enter the cruel world stage. Over the course of the next month, successful tree buds will be exploding all over the place. Soon, they will be all gone.

It’s more traditional to consider the subject of tree buds during the winter time when there is no rush to the matter. To tell the truth, I’ve avoided the subject up until now mostly as a way to keep myself from using the title “This Bud’s for You.”  Unfortunately, I can’t hold it back any longer and I have to let out with some sort of bud discussion before I explode.

The only decent way to identify leafless deciduous trees is by looking at their three B’s – buds, barks, and berries.  There isn’t any indecent way, really, but I suppose you could perform this task while in the nude and achieve such a thing. You could also descend  quickly into indecency should you try to come up with alternate “B” words to fit my little tree I.D. phrase. Since time is a wast’n, however, there’s no place for such time squandering thoughts. We are already too late to examine Red Maple buds because they have already flowered in these parts (see below). Many lilacs and honeysuckles are also starting to send out some leaves. Fortunately, we have plenty of time to eyeball some pre-explosive hickory tree buds. These buds are for yo… er, I mean, us. Hickories offer at least two of the three “B’s” at the moment.

There are several species of hickory in S.E. Michigan. Two of the most common are the Bitternut and the Shagbark varieties. These trees are also among the easiest of their sort to identify both individually and from each other depending on how closly you examine them.

From a distance, the Shagbark is probably the most distinctive leafless tree in the region because of its tell-tale bark. True to name, the bark on the mature Shagbark peels off into long dangling strips (see here). No other trees – live ones anyway -look quite like it. The Bitternut exhibits a much tighter bark pattern with shallow interlacing furrows (see here). This tree looks as much like a maple as anything when mixed among other trees.

Up close, the branches and buds of these two nut trees are equally as different as the bark. In this case, the Bitternut bud takes on the distinctive quality. As you can see in the title picture, the simple buds are pubescent (hairy) and bright mustard yellow. In the world of budology (there is no such science, but it sounds nice) this type of bud is classified as valvate. This term means that it consists of only two parts or scales.

Shagbark buds are very different (look below). The terminal bud, that’s the one at the end of the twig, is fairly large, dull brown and made up of 3 to 4 overlapping scales. There’s a scientific term for that as well. Budmiesters call that style an imbricate bud.

 So there you have it in a nutshell. If there were proper space, we could go into the world of bud scars – those face shaped marks under each bud where the leaves were once attached. These are very good identifiers in themselves. Speaking of nutshells, we’ll also forgo the nutshell talk for now because this is more of a fall topic. If I’m to stick to current custom, this means that I’ll bring it up sometime next winter. The very name, hickory, is from the Algonquin word for oily nut meat “hiccora, ” so I admit it is borderline criminal not to talk nut. But, so be it. The purpose here was not to to make you nut wiser, it was to make you Bud wiser.

1 Comment »

  1. Your Bud Wiser article is very informative. I knew of terminal buds but not of Valvate buds. And I do like your method of identification of leafless trees; three B’s buds, bark, and berries.

    Comment by fruit and nut trees — August 1, 2009 @ 1:15 am

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