Each tree species has a unique signature in the shape of it's buds and the scars left behind on each twig when leaves break away in the fall. Over the winter, these signatures are clear identifiers of dormant tree species. With the arrival of warmth and sunlight, all bets are off as the trees transform rapidly into new forms. Here is a sampling of what's afoot in our part of the woodlands.
Red maples, one of the earliest trees to flower and leaf, release their seeds during the growing season. Other maple species will take all summer to mature their seeds, which will fall in the autumn. The color of red maple flowers depends on their sex. Male flowers (second and third image) have gold, pollen producing anthers while the female flowers (fourth image) are fully red. Male flowers which have fallen off after releasing their pollen litter our forest floor like red confetti.
Norway maple is not native to our forest. Introduced specimens appear along woodland openings at the paddock edges. The buds, flowers and immature leaves are a delight to the eye.
Sugar maples do not ravish they eye with color like their red and Norway cousins. Nonetheless, their sweet offering of sap is enough to motivate me to recognize their changing seasonal guises. Squirrels agree, and nip the twig ends in order to nibble the tender leaf bud interiors (third image).
Shagbark hickory is ubiquitous in our forest. Hickory nuts provide food to many kinds of animals, including squirrels, mice, chipmunks, raccoons, wild turkeys and blue jays. The nuts are a delicious wild food for humans also.
Bitternut hickory is not a favorite food for humans, but squirrels, mice and deer have no such prejudice. The distinctive sulfur color of the buds attract my attention during the monochrome of the snowy season, and the intriguing texture of unfurling leaves provides another pleasure, come spring.
Wild grape is another food source, beloved by animals and humans alike. The young, rose colored leaves rival the spring ephemerals in their beauty. More on the ephemerals in my next blog!