“What’s That?” Wednesday: Fall Tree Buds

Cottonwood Buds 1-1

When we see trees with budding branches, it is often spring that comes to mind. But if you look past the showy and colorful leaves of autumn, you may find something surprising waiting among them: trees begin their preparation for their spring showing of buds and blossoms many months ahead of time.  In fact, trees start preparing for spring during late summer of the previous year while they have abundant sunlight and energy at their disposal. So, while some insects and other creatures are finding hidden places to overwinter right now, tree buds are actually easy to find as the leaves continue to fall and reveal these tiny preparations for spring already along the twigs of the trees.

Read on to find out a bit more about fall tree buds as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about the buds. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

Fall Buds 2-1

Fall buds Apricot 1-1

Fall Buds Mulberry 1-1

Fall Bud River 2-1

Fall Buds River 5-1

Some interesting things to know about fall tree buds:

– A tree bud contains the beginnings of a leaf, shoot, or flower.

– Trees make buds at the end of summer when they have lots of energy from the sun.

– Fall, when the leaves start to fall off the trees, is a good time to spot tree buds.

– The buds overwinter waiting for the warm days of spring to grow and eventually become leaves and flowers.

– Some animals, such as squirrels and deer, eat tree buds when other food becomes scarce.

– Some insects feed on the tender tree buds.

Canyon Fall Buds 5-1

Questions for observations:

– What color is the bud: red, brown, yellow?

– Does the bud have a cover? Is it smooth, have scales or fuzz?

– How does the cover help the bud during the winter months?

– Is there just one bud or multiple buds clustered together?

– What will come out of the bud: leaf or flower?

Ideas to take it further:

– Set aside a page in your nature journal, or make a small “bud” journal to record your observations.


– Choose a bud that is easy to observe, tie a small ribbon or string near the bud to mark the location for future observations.

Cottonwood Buds Tie-1

– Make regular observations, drawing or photographing the bud to watch how it changes over time. Space these observations appropriately for the season; in winter it will not change much but more frequent observations will be necessary in the spring when things start to grow at a rapid rate.

– Buds can also be observed on perennial shrubs. This is a good time to observe annual plants that have died back and gone to seed and compare them to the perennial shrubs with new buds forming for spring growth.

Click here to download the fall tree buds nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.


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  • tamara November 14, 2013, 7:17 am

    This will be a good addition to our walks during the fall and winter season. More to explore!

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