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Nature School Project: Tree Buds

Nature School Project: Tree Buds

In the Martin & Sylvia Nature School story "The Bud's Story", winter holiday vacation has been busy for Martin and he is looking forward to starting the new year with some quiet time in the woods with his Goose-eye Wilderness School friends. Sylvia, however, starts her first Nature School day with a bad cold — consequently, Martin arrives at Goose-eye late. This is frustrating for him until he hears a story from Troy about a tree bud's life and its anticipation of the future year ahead — with its beautiful growth as well as its inevitable challenges.

We are joined by Dawn of Mud Puddles to Metors.

When we see trees with budding branches, it is often spring that comes to mind. But if you look past the showy and colorful leaves of autumn, you may find something surprising waiting among them: trees begin their preparation for their spring showing of buds and blossoms many months ahead of time. In fact, trees start preparing for spring during late summer of the previous year while they have abundant sunlight and energy at their disposal. So, while some insects and other creatures are finding hidden places to overwinter right now, tree buds are actually easy to find as the leaves continue to fall and reveal these tiny preparations for spring already along the twigs of the trees.

tree buds dawn 1

Some interesting things to know about fall tree buds:

– A tree bud contains the beginnings of a leaf, shoot, or flower.

– Trees make buds at the end of summer when they have lots of energy from the sun.

– Fall, when the leaves start to fall off the trees, is a good time to spot tree buds.

– The buds overwinter waiting for the warm days of spring to grow and eventually become leaves and flowers.

– Some animals, such as squirrels and deer, eat tree buds when other food becomes scarce.

– Some insects feed on the tender tree buds.

tree buds dawn 3

Questions for observations:

– What color is the bud: red, brown, yellow?

– Does the bud have a cover? Is it smooth, have scales or fuzz?

– How does the cover help the bud during the winter months?

– Is there just one bud or multiple buds clustered together?

– What will come out of the bud: leaf or flower?

Ideas to take it further:

– Set aside a page in your nature journal, or make a small “bud” journal to record your observations.

tree buds dawn 2

– Choose a bud that is easy to observe, tie a small ribbon or string near the bud to mark the location for future observations.

tree buds dawn 4

– Make regular observations, drawing or photographing the bud to watch how it changes over time. Space these observations appropriately for the season; in winter it will not change much but more frequent observations will be necessary in the spring when things start to grow at a rapid rate.

– Buds can also be observed on perennial shrubs. This is a good time to observe annual plants that have died back and gone to seed and compare them to the perennial shrubs with new buds forming for spring growth.

About the Author

Dawn Suzette Smith

Nature School Blogger

Dawn Suzette Smith is a self-taught naturalist and trained educator. For the past 15 years she has worked to promote children's connections with nature as well as outdoor pursuits for both physical and mental health. Her writing and photography have been featured in various print and online magazines and books and in exhibits with the National Park Service. Dawn currently homeschools two curious nature lovers and leads nature walks year-round to help families connect with nature through child-led nature study in the wild forests and along the rugged coastline of Nova Scotia, Canada. Along with Annie Riechmann, she is also the author of the upcoming Whatever the Weather: Science Experiments and Art Activities That Explore the Wonders of Weather (Roost, 2016). You can find her work at Mud Puddles to Meteors, a blog dedicated to finding nature in the well traveled corners of everyday life, and a landing place for nature loving families raising kids to explore the world around them with a spirit of discovery and a love of science.

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