Monday, March 9, 2015

About trees, tree bud i. d. in winter

                                Soon tree buds will open, like this saucer magnolia with the furry buds.

    Spring will be upon us soon, but last week I saw robins in the snow...
                               Snow Robins

     Robins in the snow
     As the white around us grows,
     Hopping on their merry way,
     On this wintry March day.
     Fighting off the starlings
     Who weren't exactly darling,
     Blue jays getting into the act,
     Jumping on snow to pack
     it down and compete for the food.

    About Trees ---
    Did you know that the red maple is one of the most plentiful here in southwest Virginia forests ("ubiquitous" is the word)? 
     I went with a group of "budding" Master naturalists on this unique walk, up a bank away from a parking lot at Pandapas Pond, the parking lot just barely melted enough for my Chevy to find a spot I could get out of. We chatted casually till one of the organizers, Dianna B, made her appearance, as I asked my fellow naturalist friend about if her daughters had built a snowman during the last week. (She complained that they hadn't had school in the last 13 days, and when her husband was teaching a college class she had to somehow work on her computer at home with a 6 and 9 year old -- good luck.)
    So  how the heck do you identify a tree in the woods, in the middle (or end) of winter? No foliage, no flowers, and they mostly look gray, right? Our guide, Virginia Tech forester John Peterson, was very specific and pulled down a number of very small branches and twigs with buds for our group to look over. Did you  know that the red maple actually "has" red buds? And later, in fall, its green, jagged edged leaves will turn a bright red as well. But the sugar maples have them beat in the color dept. in fall. Their leaves vary, even on the same tree, from yellow, to yellow-orange, to red and deep red-orange. Really pretty, in my view. But Peterson said the sugar maples were fussy about soil type and weren't as readily seen in the Appalachian woods as the red maples.
    Like the photo above, we also found a "furry" budded tree, the cucumber magnolia. I'm not sure where the cucumber name comes from, but it certainly has soft to the touch buds.
Other trees common to the woods in this region include various pines, like Virginia pine, Table Mountain pine, and white pine, and hemlock, another evergreen. Oh, and pitch pine too. They are very close in appearance and it takes knowledge of certain characteristics (like the size of the needles, the type of bark, the shape of the particular cone) to get them right. Not rocket science, but may take a little memorization. And we did this standing in an inch of snow much of the afternoon. Good thing I wore a hat so that I didn't catch a chill!

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