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Get to Know Your Buds

It’s an understatement to say that we’re itching for spring to arrive at Overton Park. But while the landscape is largely still monochromatic, there’s an opportunity for some early bloomers to shine. Time to see how well you know your tree and shrub buds!

Saucer magnolia tree bud

Saucer magnolia tree bloom

We only have a couple of saucer magnolias in the park (they’re in the formal gardens). There are quite a few in bloom around town, but ours haven’t quite gotten there yet.  Any day now, though…

Red maple flowers

Red maple flowers and seeds

The two preceding images are of two different red maple trees across the trail from each other in the Old Forest. The second one is on a slightly earlier schedule, because if you look closely you can see the familiar whirligig seeds (called samaras) starting to take shape. These trees are among the first to bloom in spring, and their color really stands out.

Beech tree buds

These long, slender buds were easy to identify as beech buds, because beeches often retain at least some of their leaves throughout the winter. This process is called marcescence, where the base of the leaf petiole stays alive even as the rest of the leaf dies. You’ll see this on some oaks as well. Case in point:

Oak buds

These buds are from a variety of red oak tree that’s prevalent in the park. This tree is right at the main entrance gates at Poplar and Tucker.

Oak buds

These are the flowers of an elm tree near the formal gardens.

Elm tree flowers

The elderberry shrubs are beginning to leaf out in the Old Forest right now.  They’ll produce clusters of white flowers in early summer.

Elderberry leaves

We are fortunate to have a great deal of native spicebush in the Old Forest. This is a great understory plant whose fruit is greatly enjoyed by birds, and whose leaves are food for spicebush swallowtail caterpillars. The leaves are also very fragrant when crushed. If you’re walking the trails in the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing a lot of these tiny yellow buds.

Spicebush buds

Spicebush buds

Spicebush buds and flowers

And finally, there are so many red buckeyes in the Old Forest that you can see them in all stages of leafing out right now.  Start to finish:

Buckeye buds

Buckeye leafing out

Buckeye new leaves

Buckeye leaves

We hope you enjoyed a little tour through some of the spring changes that are coming over the trees of the park. The wildflowers have just begun to pop up in the Old Forest, so we’ll be giving you a look at those over the next few weeks as well. (Yeah, we LOVE spring. There’s something different to see every day!)

Interested in learning to identify what you see in the park? We heartily recommend iNaturalist, a website/app where you can upload your photos and a crowd of smart people helps you figure out what you’re seeing.  Then you can impress your friends with all your sweet nature knowledge!