Hello and welcome to My Nature Nook. In today’s tutorial, we are going to meet 10 of our common tree buds and learn how to identify them.
Buds are a really useful way (and sometimes, one of the few ways) of identifying trees during the winter and early spring when they don’t yet have any leaves or flowers to help identify them. Yet, we so often overlook or forget about them.
At first glance, it might seem surprising to think about the possibility of identifying a tree by those little knobbly bits on its twigs. But, once you open your eyes and start noticing their little details, you will soon realise that tree buds, those knobbly things’, are often as different from one another as leaves or flowers ‘those green or pretty things’.
The tree buds we are going to meet today, are all from deciduous trees and include:
- Horse chestnut
Are you ready to meet them? Let’s get started!
Alder tree buds
The buds of the alder, are recognised by their soft, purple colour. They grow alternately, down either side of the twigs and are perched on little pegs protruding off the twig. If you are unsure about identifying alder at this time of , there is usually another handy clue for you – look for it’s little cones and catkins. Alder is one of the few deciduous trees with cones, making it really easy to spot. In fact, it almost always has an eclectic collection of both mature and immature catkins and cones.
Ash tree buds
The buds of the ash tree are among the easiest tree buds to identify – they are a lovely ashy black colour and spiral down the twig in pairs, first this way, then that. There are not many trees with black buds like this. So, if you spot black buds, it is almost sure to be an ash.
Beech tree buds
Beech tree buds are also pretty easy to identify once you know how to recognise them – they are long, thin, tapered and chestnut brown. They tend to grow alternately along the twig and usually along the horizontal plane.
Cherry tree buds
At first glance, cherry buds can be easy to confuse with oak buds. But, this is where the use of clues comes in. Cherry tree bark is very different to oak, often with a distinct shine and with ridged, horizontal lenticles. The way to distinguish between the buds, is the number of buds in the cluster and the pattern of their scales. Cherry buds grow in bigger clusters than oak, are often smaller and thinner and their scales are less obvious and tightly closed. They also grow in clusters all the way down the branch.
Hazel tree buds
Hazel tree buds are blunt ended, rounded, soft green coloured buds, placed alternately along the twig. Not only that, but the twig is very often angled at each bud, giving the twigs a distinctive zig-zag pattern. They are also covered in a soft down. As the buds grow and enlarge, they often develop dark red splodges at their tips – as shown below.
Hawthorn tree buds
Hawthorn tree buds are quite funny in that they do not look like buds at all – they just look like short, blunt-ended twigs shooting off the main branches. In fact, each year, the new generation of hawthorn leaves grows from the end of the previous years ‘stubs’, so the longer these stubby buds, the older they are. When you do find young buds growing on younger twigs and branches, they are a dark, reddish brown and bulbous or knobbly, with prominent, bulgy scales.
Horse chestnut tree buds
Horse chestnut buds are pretty easy both to spot and identify. They are very large, pointy egg-shaped buds, growing on the ends of (usually) upward arching branches. (Horse chestnut is not very twiggy). They are also very sticky and often look shiny because of this.
Oak tree buds
Oak tree buds can be mistaken for cherry if you focus on the buds alone – which is why using all clues is important (cherry and oak bark is very different). Oak is distinguished by growing a smaller clusters (usually 3 main buds, with a few smaller buds around and beneath it). They are also fatter than cherry buds, with more obvious bud scales. Another clue is the leaf scar – the buds nestle is a big leaf scar. also, unlike the cherry, the clusters usually occur only at the ends of the branch, with single buds along the length of the branch.
Rowan tree buds
Rowan buds, like hawthorn, are a bit odd in that they barely look like ‘buds’ at all. They just look like scruffy, white-haired flakes. But, they are indeed buds and identified precisely by their oddness. They grow in pairs or threes, are an inconspicuous dark brown, scruffy looking, covered in fine white hair and tightly stuck to the branches.
Sycamore tree buds
Sycamore buds are a common sight all over the British and Irish countryside. In fact, they are also amongst the first buds to burst in the spring. Flat at one end, pointy at the other, each of their large, soft green scales ends in a little black tip. Sycamore buds grow in pairs all along the branch (as do the branches on young trees), rotating first this way, then that as they go. So, look out for them in hedges, woodlands, riversides and city parks. Basically, everywhere!
See you soon and happy nature walking x