Spring ... when tree buds become leaves

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  • Photo by DON BARTLING In spring the tiny bright green leaves of many trees burst forth from their buds as in this black cottonwood tree by the Kootenai River.

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    Photo by DON BARTLING The arrival of warm temperatures in April and May induces trees to open their buds. Usually the timing is appropriate, though unseasonable early warmth can sometimes fool trees, but they can temporarily stop if cold temperatures return.

  • Photo by DON BARTLING In spring the tiny bright green leaves of many trees burst forth from their buds as in this black cottonwood tree by the Kootenai River.

  • 1

    Photo by DON BARTLING The arrival of warm temperatures in April and May induces trees to open their buds. Usually the timing is appropriate, though unseasonable early warmth can sometimes fool trees, but they can temporarily stop if cold temperatures return.

“The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling.”

— Henry David Thoreau

People go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. Trees go to sleep every autumn and wake up in the spring.

It is springtime, which means that tree buds are beginning to open up and leaves are growing.

During winter trees appear to be bare and dead. They are not in fact dead, but are dormant. That means they are just resting and waiting until conditions are more favorable for them to be active again. Those favorable conditions — warmer temperatures and longer days with more sunlight — happen in the springtime. Those buds are actually on the tree all winter long and aren’t just there in the spring when the trees are budding.

During the winter the tree does not have any leaves, so it cannot make its own energy. At the end of summer, the last new leaves the tree makes will become the buds that protect the tree all winter long. These winter buds contain all the tree will need to start growing again once it is spring.

Trees have these terminal buds on the tips of the twigs all winter long in order to protect the tree from the freezing cold temperatures of winter. Those buds serve as a barrier to keep the cold out and prevent the inner parts of the tree from freezing and dying.

In the spring time, when the temperatures have warmed up and the days are longer, the trees begin to come back to life. One of the first signs that the trees are no longer dormant and are active again is that the tree buds open up and new leaves begin to grow.

It may be true that the trees are “budding” in the spring, but in fact those buds have been on the tree all winter long.

Fun Tree Bud Facts

1. By the time a tree’s leaves drop in the fall, its leaves for the next spring are already formed.

2. Tiny leaves, stems, and sometimes flowers are located in packages called buds.

3. Buds are made of tough scales that form a waterproof case.

4. In the spring, sap rises from the roots to the branches; the scales fall off the buds; and the tree’s leaves, stems, and flowers unfurl and grow.

5. During the summer, the tree begins to develop new buds for the following year.

Spring is a wonderful time to go outside in Boundary County. When walking through a wooded area, take a moment to observe trees, twigs, branches and buds.

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