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Things to Check Out This Spring: What are Buds, Leaves and Blossoms?

Sarah Heidtke, Dakota County Master Gardener

Keep an eye out for BUDS, LEAVES, and BLOSSOMS growing on the trees around you. Read on to learn more about these fun signs of spring and some tree education ideas for children of all ages!

Things to Check Out This Spring: What are Buds, Leaves and Blossoms?

Your nose may tell you there are blossoms nearby and your ears may hear the buzzing of happy bees enjoying their nectar and pollen.  How does the rounded or pointed shape of a bud compare to the flat shape of many leaves?  How many different colors and shapes of blossoms can you find on a walk around your neighborhood, or a visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum?

pussy willow (salix discolor)

In spring, trees start to wake up from their winter naps, called dormancy.  The days are longer.  The sunlight is stronger. The temperatures warm, allowing water to be pulled from the soil into the roots and then move within the tree.  The sap starts flowing, full of energy. In a maple tree, we can even use the sap to make syrup for your pancakes. Yum! Sap helps feed the trees too. As the sap carries nutrients throughout the tree, BUDS swell at the end of tree branches - they are gathering energy and getting ready for the new season.  Those buds are the beginning of a new leaf or blossom!

diagram of a twig with lateral (side) buds and terminal (end) bud

A LEAF grows from some buds - this is a flattened structure that has some big jobs:

Transpiration: helping the tree to release water vapor and oxygen into the air and take in carbon dioxide.

Photosynthesis: taking the sun’s energy and making it into fuel for the tree

Shade and shelter: from sun, wind and rain 

Food: what kind of creatures eat leaves? Some big mammals and small insects like to munch on those tasty treats.  

4 leaf

Pay attention to the shape and structure of leaves - you can identify the tree by the kind of leaf it grows!

Some buds turn into flower BLOSSOMS: their job is to attract pollinators with bright colors and sweet scents!  If the pollinators (like bees) can bring pollen from one plant to another, some blossoms will grow into fruit like an apple!

apple trees in blossom

The University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources has a fun way to identify, different features in tree species.  Find more tree identification cards here.

card of Black Cherry Tree

Ready to read more? Check out some books from the Dakota County libraries about BUDS, LEAVES, BLOSSOMS and more on trees!  Here are a few suggestions:

National Geographic Kids, Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Tree by Patricia Daniels

The Things That I Love About Trees by Chris Butterworth & illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Can You Hear the Trees Talking, Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest by Peter Wohllenben

Nature All Around Trees by Pamela Hickman and Carolyn Gavin

Keep an eye on this shrub if you happen to be by the Wescott Library steps - I found some branches with buds just beginning to swell with snow still on the ground this spring!

Find some additional resources for tree activities from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources here.

But most importantly, get out there with the child in your life and enjoy the spring BUDS, LEAVES, AND BLOSSOMS!

Photo Credit: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (1,2), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (3), University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources (4,6), Sarah Heidtke (5,7,8)

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