Because birds are fewer and less active, because wild flowers are not in bloom, because there are no butterflies in flight, a nature walk in Eliza Howell in winter provides me more opportunity to pay careful attention to features that I am often distracted from in other seasons. Recently, I have been focusing on the buds of tree and scrubs.
The buds, this year’s undeveloped leaves or shoots, began to grow last fall and then entered dormancy, a period of suspended growth. They are “sleeping beauties” at present, waiting to be awakened.
As can be expected, the buds on different species vary in appearance.
The tightly enclosed buds are protected from the winter’s cold, which they would not be able to survive if they were to open now. It must not be temperature alone that determines the time for buds to open and begin growing, because they rarely open early, even when there is a winter “thaw,” a period of consecutive warm days in winter. On the other hand, in years in which the spring is very cold, they open later. So the explanation is not that they simply require a certain number of dormant days.
Whatever the explanation for the precise time for different buds to emerge from dormancy, the winter is an excellent time to note the reality of dormancy and to observe the diversity of buds. To those weary of winter, the buds serve as a reminder that the trees are alive and that they too are waiting for spring.
What I am wondering is this: with the spring rush of returning birds and of early woodland wild flowers, will I be too distracted to note the opening of different buds? I hope not.