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Winter Tree Buds


Winter buds, the meaning of them.

It is a common thing for people to look into the tree tops in February and exclaim, "See how the buds are swelling!" As a matter of fact, the buds are no bigger then than they were in October and December. But the air certainly has a feeling of spring in it, and we naturally look for the signs that give encouragement to our hope that the winter is waning. When were these buds formed? This is a very reasonable question.

Away back in apple-blossoming time when the leaves are but half-grown and still covered with downy hairs the little buds may be discovered deep in the angles between leaf and twig. Examine the trees of door yards and of forest and you find the apple tree but exemplifies the general rule. Buds show their beginnings with the opening of the leaves, they grow all summer, and reach maturity by the time the leaves are shed. All winter they are dormant, but with the rise of sap in March and April they swell and burst and grow.

What is a bud?
It is a miniature branch. It may bear leaves or flowers or both. Suppose it is a leaf bud. This does not mean that it
will bear but a single leaf. It means that the winter bud will cast off its scales and lengthen into a twig which will unfold young leaves. This process will continue throughout the growing season, the tip and the stem between the leaves gradually elongating. These leaf buds produce most of the foliage of trees. The long leafy shoots of quick growing trees sometimes attain wonderful length in a season. I have seen ailanthus shoots that grew ten feet in a summer. Flower buds cast their scales, and blossoms are revealed, single or clustered.

The full development of these may soon be accomplished, or it may require a whole season. The elm blossoms, borne in side buds, ripen into seeds which are shed late in May. This ends the career of the bud. A flower bud of peach produces a single flower, whose development into a ripe peach occupies many weeks, perhaps all summer. Mixed buds cast their scales in spring and unfold shoots which bear leaves and flowers. Apple and pear blossoms are thus borne in leafy clusters.

Buds are not alike in appearance, even on the same branch. They are large or small, strong or weak, according to their contents and the chances they had when they were forming. The leaf is the nurse of the bud in its axil. If that leaf had plenty of air and sunshine, and its share of sap, then will its bud be well formed. In most cases the terminal bud is largest, because it had the best advantages when growing. Leaf buds are likely to be slender in form, flower buds more plump and more hairy; mixed buds, as they contain leaves and flowers, are usually larger than buds containing flowers or leaves alone.

The winter buds are the promises one year gives to the next. In them are packed away the leaves and the flowers, all perfectly formed but very small. In them is the only possibility of lengthening shoots and thickening sterns. In them lie all the tree's hopes for the future.