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Got Nature? > Posts > Bud Crazy!
April 09
Bud Crazy!

It is with great enthusiasm that, in late winter, I walk around, anywhere actually, to find signs that winter is losing its grip. My instinct is always to gravitate toward woody plants. Several of the earliest flowering trees, such as red elm (Ulmus rubra Muhl.), begin showing signs of flowering sometimes as early as late February.

Sageleaf willow buds
Sageleave willow buds.
Photo by: Sally Weeks, Dendrology Specialist, Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University.
Red elm flower buds
Red elm flower buds.
Photo by: Sally Weeks, Dendrology Specialist, Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University.
Red elderberry breaking budRed elderberry breaking bud.
Photo by: Sally Weeks, Dendrology Specialist, Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University.

The flower buds are separate from the vegetative buds, and begin swelling with the earliest warm spells and lengthening daylight. The flower buds are obvious, and colored like a "woollybear" caterpillar.

Probably the earliest native shrub that is more anxious than I to have winter over with once and for all is red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa L.). Its over-wintering buds are large to begin with, but with only the slightest warmup in January or February, they begin to swell and sometimes open. It is very common to see "burned' edges on the bud scales from their over-exuberance. But, as spring finally makes its appearance, the buds begin to burst. They are something to see and worth waiting for!

Willow buds (Salix spp.), also will burst their bud scale (1 per bud) early, depending on the species. Pussy willow (S. discolor Muhl.), is the most famous due to its extra large buds, but other native species like sage-leaf (S. candida Flugge.), also burst buds to reveal the much smaller, fluffy "pussy toes."

One of the most fascinating parts of nature is its detail work. Watching buds open, seeing all the intricate detail, while trying to fathom how all that primordial plant material was buried inside those slender twigs -it is really almost too much to believe! Is this all computer generated? Can't wait to see more!

For more resources view Shrubs of Indiana and Shrubs and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest.

Sally Weeks, Dendrology Specialist,
Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

 

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For publications:
The Education Store

Purdue Nature of Teaching
HelptheHellbender.org
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Master Gardener, Purdue University
Tree Doctor App, Purdue University
Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory
Purdue Six Legs News Column
Purdue Yard and Garden