Tree Bud Project – Week 2

It’s Friday – so I am doing an update on the tree branches I brought inside a week ago. See the previous post here. All of them seem to be surviving in the vase of water. I’ve freshened the water every few days. All the pictures are with the 15x macro clip-on lens and my smartphone.

The cherry buds have opened into small white flowers! At first the buds just looked bigger.


Two days later, the white tips showed beyond the green of the outer covering.

And the next morning the flowers were open! I took a picture of the back and front of the flowers.


The plum is slower. Some of the buds have not changed at all and I am wondering if they were damaged by cold temperatures. Some look like they are larger. I hope they eventually will open.

The red maple has bloomed and is now drooping. They are wind fertilized…so won’t make seeds in the ‘windless’ house. At first, they looked very red – like little streamers from the bud.

Then the bigger structure grew.


And now they seem to be drying out.

The tulip poplar has been changing a lot too. At first more buds opened.

Two days later all the buds were larger, and a tiny leaf had emerged from one of them.

Over the next few days other tiny leaves emerged and began to get larger. I noticed the tiny leaves while they were still folded inside the bud too. The bark of the twig seems to be a deeper color too.

I haven’t noticed any changes in the black walnut branch. If the buds do open it should be spectacular with so many buds on the tip of the branch.


The sycamore buds haven’t changed much either although they seem to be a little larger and their color has shifted to green with some red overtones.

Stay tuned to next Friday for the next tree bud report!

Tree Bud Project – Week 1

I started a project to photograph tree buds this week by cutting small branches from trees in our yard: cherry, plum, red maple, tulip poplar, black walnut, and sycamore. Unfortunately, there were no branches low enough for me to reach on our oak.


The plan is to bring the branches indoors (where it is warm) and monitor the buds – see how many of them would open indoors over the next few weeks. Once they do, I’ll check to see what is happening with the buds on the tree outdoors.

I took pictures of the buds with the 15x macro lens clipped to my smart phone…starting with the cherry. The buds are enlarging but still firmly closed. Our tree lags the blossoms down in DC around the tidal basin.


The plum buds are still very small. They already show the pink color of the flowers. The tree usually blooms after the cherry.

The red maple twig is easy to identify - opposite twigs, red buds. I was surprised that there were so few branches with buds on the lower branches; the deer must be the culprits. It took a lot of looking to find a branch I could reach with buds.


The tulip poplar already had a popped bud! The others on the branch were still closed. The leaf scars are interesting to notice too.


The black walnut has a lot of buds at the tip of the branch. This tree was also heavily browsed by deer. The branch leaked sap as I was taking pictures. Hope is it OK with the water from the vase.

Finally – the sycamore buds are still tight. In a previous year, a sycamore bud on my indoor branch opened and a tiny leaf unfurled.

I’ll be posting about the leaf buds about once a week if there is action to report.

Winter Tree Identification – Part 2

Continuing from yesterday -

Seeds that help with identification include tulip poplar (the pods stay on the trees releasing the seeds during the winter breezes to clog up any nearby gutters!),

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Osage orange (that fall to the ground and are only moved around my people these days…they were planted for fence rows after the dust bowl because they are hardy, and the seed balls are easily broken apart and planted),

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Sweet gum (the spikey seeds are a hazard in suburban yards and drive ways), and

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Black walnuts (there are always nuts under the tree but the squirrels may carry then a little further away so look at the shape of the tree too).

Of course – there are trees that are not as easy to identify. That’s why I carry a small book – Winter Tree Finder – when I am hiking in the winter and looking at trees. I found mine at a used book sale, but they are available new from Amazon as well.

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Mt Pleasant in January 2019 – Part 1

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My first hike at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant was last week on a cold, blustery day after a night rain. We were prepared for the cold and managed to work our way around the muddy parts of the trails. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds. I was taking pictures of winter trees. I am very familiar with a black walnut near the rock wall on the meadow side.

The nuts on the ground all around it would give it away even if I didn’t know it was a black walnut. I am always amazed that the squirrels can get the shells open with their teeth.

The path along the wall was in relatively good shape – still mostly covered with grass. We didn’t go all the way down to the Davis Branch…but cut across the meadow mid-way down the hill.

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We took the long way around to an overlook of the Branch since the lower trails were too muddy to attempt.

The water was not high, but everything looked wet. I was noticing the beech trees – easy to identify by their smooth bark.

One of the root balls that had been placed upside down in the restored part of the stream had been washed downstream by an earlier flood…and was still balanced where I’d seen it last fall. It will stay there until the next big flood. It had a collapsed pillow-like orange fungus growing on it.

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A river birch is easy to identify with its curly bark.

As we turned back toward the nature center, I noted that one of the trees across the smaller stream had finally rotted enough to collapse.

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The only ‘bloom’ I saw on the hike was the beginning of the witch hazel bloom on the tree near the farmhouse. The streamer like petals are still curled up in the opening flowers. I’ll have to remember to look at the tree every time I go to Mt. Pleasant over the next month or so!

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Zooming – September 2018

The zoom on my new camera (60 vs 40 optical zoom…and then comes the digital zoom too) makes it even easier to stand well out of the flowerbed, get a good angle, not scare the butterfly or bee. It’s easier to hold myself steady using the viewfinder rather than the screen like I had to previously. Sometimes I use the monopod…but other times I find that I can simple hold myself steady enough that the camera image stabilization does the rest.

The images I selected this month are from several places: Longwood Gardens, home, Brookside Gardens, and Howard Count Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. Some of my favorite places to be.

Enjoy my picks of zoomed images for September 2018!

Backyard Walk – May 2018

Last month I posted about violets and spice bush. On an walk through the yard this week, I still say plenty of violets blooming and

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The spice bush was beginning to unfurl leaves. I hope there will be some spicebush swallowtails around this summer to produce several generations of butterflies in our forest.

The maple seeds are drying and will swirl away from the tree soon. The black walnut is beginning to unfurl its leaves. There are multiple leaves that unfurl from the buds on the tips of the stems as well as along it. The bud scars from last year are often visible. The tree lags the tulip poplars leafing out.

The high point of the walk around the backyard was not actually in the yard…it was just into the woods: A Jack-in-the-Pulpit! There are so many invasive plants in the forest that I always am relieved when I find a native making it through another spring. I'll try to pick a good day to spray myself with insect repellent (to keep the ticks away) and walk back into the forest before the prickle bush gets too thick to look for more native wildflowers.

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The sycamore buds have just pops…with leaves too tiny to be very interesting yet. I’ll save it for the June post.

Tree status – Mid- March

I took some close-up pictures of three trees in our yard this week. The black walnut has obvious buds but they aren’t opening yet. The scars from last year’s growth are shallow craters below the buds for spring 2018 growth.

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The plum tree has bright pink buds. The blooms will be pink and probably coming soon. This is the first tree that blooms in our yard.

The cherry is the second tree to bloom. The buds have begun to spit open. Our tree lags the ones in downtown Washington DC which are predicted to reach peak bloom this year around the end of March. Our weather has kept having cold nights with some warm days so the bloom is proceeding slowly after appearing to be starting early.

Belmont BioBlitz – Fall 2017 (Part I)

Last week, 5th graders from 3 Howard County elementary schools participated in a BioBlitz organized by the Howard County Conservancy at Belmont Manor and Historic Park. The three mornings were quite busy. I enjoyed the calm before the buses arrived – watching the birds at the feeder and photographing the generally calm early morning scene. Then someone would spot a bus starting up the tree lined drive to the manor house – and all the volunteers would spread out and wait for their group of about 10 students and at least one chaperone to be assigned. Then we headed out into the field.

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The area my group was assigned on the first day was meadow rimmed with trees. We used iNaturalist to record observations of what we found: horse nettle, pokeweed, worms, spiders, wooly bear caterpillars, and black walnuts. iNatualist helped us identify things better – particularly if the pictures were good. One of exciting things we found but couldn’t photograph well was tiny worms feeding on the black walnut! We also found a birds nest in the tall grasses of the meadow…and lots of multi-flora rose bushes with thorns that seemed to grab pant legs. In two hours…the students were ready for their picnic lunch in front of the manor house and the return to school – tired from a great BioBlitz day.

More on the other two BioBlitz days in tomorrow’s post….