April 2011 Archives

from flowers to leaves in one day

| No Comments
On the very first day of spring, the buds on my tree began to open as if on cue to reveal purple flowers. Today, on Arbor Day, the tree shook off the last of those flowers and transformed itself into a green leafy tree just like the maples that bloomed last week.

Only yesterday, heavy, wilted flowers still hung from all the twigs.


Small leaves had just begun shooting out at the tips.


After a rainstorm yesterday evening, the road and sidewalk were littered with the flowers.


And in the sunshine this morning, the twigs were bare save for stunning open leaves at every tip.


They're so lovely, they're almost more flowery than the flowers ever were.


A good day for a tree.

tree droppings

| No Comments
Yesterday I noticed that the flowers have started to fall off of my tree.


They looked like tiny little tree poops on the sidewalk.


Today, there were a ton more of them on the ground!


It seems so sad that they would fall off so soon after all the time the tree spent growing them. Is this their purpose? To litter the street with old ash tree flowers? Does that spread the pollen more than having the flowers stay on the twigs and catch the breeze? Are they supposed to be eaten by animals and carried farther? Why are they falling off so fast?

My ash tree isn't the only one shedding. The beautiful bright green flowers of the maple tree by our parking space have started to cover the asphalt.


And the magnolia tree that burst into bloom two weeks ago has already lost most of its flowers.


That was quick. So what's next?

watching the leaves grow

| No Comments




(All pictures taken yesterday, April 26, after a week of warm weather, including three days of rain.)

soylent green

| No Comments
I've been watching the little purple flowers on my tree turn green. At first, I thought there were new green flower parts growing beneath or behind the purple bits. Then, as things got really green, it seemed like the purple was falling off or opening up, leaving all the green behind. But then it rained.


Hmmm. The rain always reveals the tree's secrets and this time, the rain made the flowers purple again. Weird. That makes no sense. I decided that since the rain always makes everything on the tree look darker, the flowers still had some purple in them and the rain was just washing out the light green color.

Today, two days later, the green is back. And how!


Woot. Purple gone; green on!


The texture of the flowers has changed a lot too. When they were just out of the buds, they were firm like a koosh ball. Recently they've felt more wispy and flowery. So I thought I'd see what they feel like today now that they're all green.


OMG. It's pollen! THE GREEN IS POLLEN! How did I not see that coming? I was sure the flowers themselves were changing color. But that yellowy-green pollen just brushes right off. And it probably washed off that one day in the rain.

Geez, I hope I'm not allergic to ash tree pollen.

waiting for leaves

| No Comments
Last week, when we last checked on the leaves of my tree, the little green pistachio tips had just started to open, sending out two tiny green wings.


Two days later, the wings had stretched out so much that the buds looked like little webbed duck feet.


(It occurred to me that this structure - a vertical line in the center with two lines coming out at a 45 degree angle on either side - is the exact same structure of all the branches. It was one of the first things I noticed about my tree and inspired my husband's logo tree drawing.)

Yesterday, the center part of the buds started to uncurl just enough so you could begin to recognize tiny leaves in there.


It looks like three or four leaves huddled together.


You can see a leaf right there in the center. The leaves on the sides look like hands holding it. Beautiful.

And just this morning, in the corner that gets the morning sun, I spotted one bud where the leaves were beginning to separate from each other and unfurl in what looks like a spiral shape.

Yippee! I wonder how many leaves are going to be in there. I wonder how big they'll be. Not too much longer now!

a seed is sleepy

| No Comments
Saturday story time once again. This week, we're reading a beautiful book all about seeds. A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and beautifully illustrated by Sylvia Long is a loving and lyrical look at the mysterious little things that grow up to be flowers, fruits and trees. You'll never look at seeds the same way again!


The book begins with an enormous sunflower full of sleepy sunflower seeds.


Sleepy seeds, the author tells us, may wait years, even decades, before revealing their secrets.


Some seeds are naked. "Yes, naked!" (No wonder they're secretive.) In seed terms, this means they aren't encased in a fruit. Naked seeds, like those of the great redwoods, hide in cones.


Inside they contain everything that is needed to make a bean plant, a flower, a fruit or a tree. So much in such a little package.


Seeds have adventurous beginnings, often traveling far from their original plant before finding a place to settle down and grow.


And they're very clever about how they get there.


The book shows us that seeds can also be thirsty and hungry and big and little, but always, they are magical, awakening when they are ready, unfurling their leaves and pushing shoots up into the sunlight.

More stunning illustrations appear on the inside cover, framing these thoughts. The opening pages show dozens of seeds, so colorful they look like candy.


And the end pages reveal the plants they will become.


For more stylish and sublime science, check out the authors' previous book, An Egg Is Quiet, and their forthcoming A Butterfly Is Patient.

maples in bloom

| No Comments
About a week ago, I showed you a few pictures of some trees in the neighborhood just starting to bloom. A tree near our parking space had some lettuce-y green stuff coming out of its buds and the buds on our sad little tree, Bud, had started to turn green.


After watching these two trees closely for the past week, I've realized that they are the same type of tree! Two days later, Bud's little buds started opening.


Two days later...


And then two days after that, there was the lettuce!


It turns out the lettuce is flowers. Little green flowers.


Bud is covered with them today.


His brother tree down the street, who was so far ahead with the lettuce, is still in the lead with scores of these green flower bundles.


I have decided that these are maples, Norway maples. It's mostly a guess, from Bud's opposite branching pattern, little brown buds, and the fact that the most common street tree in our town is the Norway maple.

Fun fact: The town's tree inventory states that 21% of Brookline's street trees are Norway maples. Only 4 1/2% are ash trees like mine!

from purple to green

| No Comments
The flowers on my tree are definitely changing color!


As the tiny purple fingers continue to grow longer, I have been following the emergence of some green under the purple tips.


I was guessing that either the little flower parts were green at the bottom or new parts were growing that were green.


But this morning, I turned over a twig to see the side that I usually can't see, the side that faces the sun in the morning and perhaps gets the most sun.


All green!


So, I guess the green isn't just growing below the purple. In fact, it looks more like the purple was covering the green maybe and is breaking off. Or maybe the purple opens up. You know how if you open a book and put the two covers together in the back, all you see is pages. Is that what's happening? Was the green inside of the purple?

open wide

| No Comments
The little green pistachio buds at the tips of the twigs of my tree are growing like gangbusters! Here's how my twig looked on Friday the 15th.


And on Sunday the 17th, it opened up!


And today, it's opening even more!


A close look at that center section really makes me think there's a leaf in there that is going to uncurl itself. Or maybe it's like an onion with many layers of leaves that will continue to pull away from the center like the first two have.


It's cool. That's for sure.

now in color

| No Comments
After looking at this big gray tree for two months, I'm so thrilled that it is finally starting to have color!

The flower clusters glow almost red in the morning light.


And the sun reflecting off the mossy growth on the bark hints at all the green to come.


The rain reveals deeper hues in the brown buds and pistachio leaves emerging from the twigs.


And the camera lens confirms my suspicion that the purple flowers are turning green.




For more fabulous pictures of trees in early spring bloom, check out this amazing photoblog from a woman following 93 trees for a whole year. Her pictures this month really capture the tiny yet amazing beginnings that make spring so magical. 

the tree book

| No Comments
This Saturday's story time book is The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown Ups written and illustrated by Gina Ingoglia.


The Tree Book is a great introduction to trees and tree identification for kids. The information, very much like the illustrations, is clear and detailed without being overwhelmingly exact or technical. The book is as pretty as it is scientific and I like that about it.

The book begins with an invitation to get to know trees a little better. (Click for a larger version.)


Ingoglia tells kids (and their grownups) that it's good to know about trees. She tells us she'll help us discover some of their names, why some have flat leaves and others needles, and how tall they grow. She puts any science-y words in bold and includes them in a glossary in the back of the book so you can look them up if you need to. And she includes pictures of people enjoying trees and nature. You can tell that we're not going to be looking at tree parts in microscopes here; we're going to be looking at them the way that any child could look at and experience them. 

The first 20 pages answer a few questions about trees, such as how they eat and drink, what kind of leaves they have and why they change color.


She talks about flowers, fruit, and cones and suggests we go bark scouting to examine this often overlooked, but very interesting part of a tree. And she includes some tips for identifying trees in winter (something I could have used back in Februrary!).


The rest of the book describes 32 common trees in North America. Each species gets a lovely two-page spread, including drawings of the tree, its leaves, buds, flowers and fruit. These tree id books often go through tree types alphabetically, which means that my ash tree is usually first.


I'm not convinced I have a white ash (there are also green ones), but I'm thinking my tiny blooming purple flowers could totally end up looking like those in the drawing. I'll share more thoughts on this another time. Let's move on to some more trees!

Next up, the elm, like the Olmstead Elm and the Madison Square Park elm I've written about on this blog.


And the honey locust, which I now know is the tree that makes the crazy long seedpods we always see on our walk to school!


There's the magnolia, whose amazing flowers we saw just this week.


And the gorgeous sugar maple - a very common tree around here.


Well, I'm sure you can tell that I could look at these pictures all day. Every one of these pages seems to convey something special or welcoming about the tree. I want to study them all and then search for them outside! 

I've stumbled across a couple more kid-friendly tree id books. First, My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America, which also details many varieties of trees found in North America and shows kids outside playing and relaxing under trees. Here's my ash tree right up front again.


Another good book to check out is Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids, which is directed at even younger children. It describes how trees grow and shows some of their flowers and leaves and even includes some tree watching activities that kids could do at home or in a classroom.


Okay, no more reading now. Time to get on out there and look at some trees! Or, just take another look out your window. Now tell me, what kind of tree is that?

spring is all around

| No Comments
More sun and more rain means more green! Our sad little tree in front of the house has started to change. The buds were reddish before last week, but now they're opening up to reveal a golden green.


By our parking space, this tree seems to be sprouting lettuce!


And my daughter spotted this in a nearby sidewalk cutout.


There used to be a tree in this spot, but it was removed about 5 years ago and the town didn't replace it. Looks like someone planted some bulbs in there this year.

My daughter and I have been looking for signs of spring during our regular visits to the zoo and this week we noticed that a magnolia tree had burst into bloom practically overnight.


I took a picture of this same tree just two weeks ago: buds closed.


Now, there are humongous flowers.


The back is even cooler. You can see how the bud opened up to reveal the flower.


Look, it's even hiding an early green leaf back here!

Next to the tree, one of the zoo's peacocks was showing off his spring green too.


seeing green

| No Comments
While the tips of the twigs on my tree continue to open up and stick out little green tongues, I've begun to notice tiny hints of green elsewhere. 

Check out these buds.


Do you see the little green patch on the underside of the top two flowers? It certainly isn't purple.

Here's another twig.


See how the tiny flower closest to the tip has green in the center? And there's also green on the base of some of the other flowers there. When I spotted this cluster of flowers, I thought it looked like a dusting of green on the flowers. I was wondering of it was dirt or dust on the underside from the street or something so I started turning the branch over and around (gently) to look more clearly at the other sides of these flowers. Guess what I found on the other side.


OMG! That's full on green in there. What is that doing there? Are these turning green? Or were they green and then turned purple?

I went back to my pictures from the weekend before the terminal buds opened and I hadn't even started thinking green yet. I found this picture of a developing flower.


What struck me about this is the color of the tips of the tiny flower petals coming from the buds. Those on the top of the twig have purple tips, but on the bottom, the tips are green. See it? What's that about??

the tipping point

| No Comments
So, remember my little theory about the tips of the twigs getting longer? I've been taking photos of the tips of a couple of twigs to check and see if there's any change. Here's what happened this week.

The first twig looked like this on April 7th...

and on April 9th...


and yesterday...


WHOA! Hold up! That is GREEN. The bud at the tip opened up. Just since the weekend!

Let's look at twig #2. April 7th...


and on April 9th...


and yesterday, April 12th...


Squeee! More green!

I'd been wondering what those terminal buds were going to do. All the side buds have been opening up for weeks, revealing the pretty purple flowers but the buds on the tips, nothing. And now, it turns out that's where the green was hiding.

Once I realized that something was going on at the tips, I started seeing buds like this everywhere. They're all doing this!


They're like long green tongues coming out.


There seems to be a twist or fold or something through the middle. Is that a super curled up leaf in there??


Wow. Wow. Wow.

wondering about weather

| No Comments
Almost a month ago, I was wondering what my tree needed to start blooming. Was it merely waiting for more sunlight and less snow? The answer seemed to come after one rare March day of sunshine and non-freezing temperatures, when I saw the first signs of change in the buds on my tree. Springwinter returned (it's a Boston season: spring on the calendar; winter outside) and I concluded that the blossoming would most likely be slow and steady. Then it snowed again. And seemingly miraculously, the buds looked further along the next day. Then we had clouds, wind and rain, and they continued to bloom. And now, the last four days have been crazy warm and sunny (70 degrees yesterday!) and I'm wondering what effect this has had on the buds.

So here's how the buds on one branch looked on April 5th, a full week ago, still in the midst of 40 degree, cloudy days.


Here are the buds from the same branch on April 9th, halfway into our mini heat wave.


And here's how they looked yesterday, after four days drinking in the sun and warmth of spring.


This is a dramatic change in one week. The brown is almost entirely gone. I feel like last week they looked like brown buds with some purple stuff coming out, whereas they now look like bundles of purple flowers bound together with some brown paper. Like a bouquet you might buy in the store.

Here's another branch on April 5th:


And yesterday, April 11th:


What a week for that twig, huh?!

So was all this progress due to the weather? Or was this just the natural progression of the process that started way back on the first day of spring? Was it progressing more slowly until the weather warmed up or is the beginning just slower than this part? I don't know if what I've observed is enough to answer these questions. But I have heard of "forcing" plants and flowers. As far as I know, it's a way of encouraging or tricking the plant to open up and start blooming earlier than it would normally. I think one way of forcing a plant is to give it some of the weather conditions it needs to get started growing again. So perhaps this great week of growth wasn't merely programmed in from the start. Perhaps the weather had the same effect on these buds that it did on most Bostonians this last week: the warmth on our faces and sunshine on our backs managed to coax us, once and for all, out of our winter havens and our weather skepticism. It's okay to come out now. Spring has truly arrived.

a flower bud

| No Comments
Remember about a month ago, I showed you my son's sprouting bean plant.


Well, now it looks like this:


Wow, right?

Each week, I see more leaves unfurling from tiny buds.


But last week, we noticed a different sort of bud.


Two days later, it looked like this.


Whoa, that's not a leaf!

Sure enough, the next day, there appeared...


A flower!

S was so excited, he jumped out of bed in the morning when I told him his plant had a flower. There are now three more flower buds on the plant ready to open.

All this has gotten me thinking about the buds on my tree.


They're gonna be flowers!

I think.

tomorrow's alphabet

| No Comments
It's Saturday story time! This week's story is for the little ones out there. It's called Tomorrow's Alphabet and was written by George Shannon and illustrated by Donald Crews (author of classics like Freight Train and Ten Black Dots).


This is an amazingly simple yet deep and thought-provoking alphabet book. It uses the classic "A is for..." format, but the objects chosen to represent the letters do not actually begin with that letter. They are things that will change into or be made into something that starts with that letter. They are tomorrow's alphabet.

And it all begins with a seed.


I love the book's focus on small beginnings that will develop into wonderful things. Just like the kids reading it.


Plants provide a natural and familiar image for this theme of growth and development.


When we read "K is for tomato, tomorrow's ketchup," my daughter asked, Why is tomato ketchup? And, a few pages earlier, Why is milk tomorrow's cheese? These are challenging and enlightening ideas for a four year-old.

Trees also serve as a very effective metaphor for tomorrow. We look forward their blooming in the spring and the change of their leaves in the fall.


Every year, tiny buds become lush green leaves...


... broken twigs are made into homes for the birds...


... and the littlest acorn progresses on its journey to becoming a giant oak.

My own little acorn, who was helpful enough to hold the pages down for me (and how cute are her hands next to the grown ones in the illustrations?), wanted to show her favorite letter.


Recycled paper, of course. Thanks again, trees.

two months in the life of a tree

| No Comments
Every day for two months I've woken up and checked on the tree.


The kids often investigate with me. My little girl likes to use the 'noculators'.

The first thing we notice now when we look out the window these days is how every branch is studded with these rounded, swollen, opening buds.


It's something you probably wouldn't notice down below just walking along the street, but so much has changed up here. For comparison, here's a picture of my twig in the very first week of this blog. You can see how the branches behind appear almost smooth, with the early buds just small bumps.


And, my how those buds have grown! Through the 'noculators' we can see that they are now almost completely open.


This is how they looked in February:


As amazing as this transformation has been so far, we all know that the really dramatic changes are still to come!

what the...?

| No Comments
Is this the weirdest looking plant you have ever seen, or what?


It looks like a plant with dinosaur plates along its back. It looks like a bug pretending to be a plant. It looks like it's covered with wooden razor blades.


How do those things even stand up all along the branches?

Plants are weird.

purple rain

| No Comments
The rain is amazing. Once again, it has managed to reveal so much more to me about my twig and the buds than the sun does. Today's rain revealed this:


There's so much purple, the buds look almost like berries!


Here's the bud cluster closest to my window that was one of the first to open and that I've been following in all my updates.  


It is now surrounded by twigs that look like this:


What a transformation from five days ago!

My tree must really like the rain.

growing up

| No Comments
As I've been watching the progress of the buds on my tree, I've noticed that the bud on the tip of each twig isn't opening. It's just as pointy and as closed as ever. A few weeks ago, I wondered about these terminal buds, speculating that maybe instead of opening up, they were getting longer. I couldn't really tell then, but now I think they just might be. Well, the buds themselves aren't getting longer, but I think the twig might be growing right under that terminal bud. The bud seems to be farther away from its little sidekicks there.

Check out the tip of this twig. This is how it looked over the weekend.


And here's how it looked two weeks ago on St. Patrick's Day.


Well, it's not obvious, but I feel like it has grown a bit.

In order to test this theory, I took baseline pictures of the tips of three twigs. I'll try to take pictures of them regularly so I can really compare.

Here's the tip of the twig closest to my window taken over the weekend.


And here's that same twig tip on March 17th.


Dunno. Maybe. Maybe not.

Here's one more taken yesterday.


And the same twig on March 17th.


Well, it's just a theory!

opening buds

| No Comments
After our April Fool's snow, we had a warm day with temperatures above 40 and sunshine. Did the buds survive the snow and continue sprouting their purple things?


Wow! Look at all that! There's almost as much purple as brown now. And check out the edge of the old buds. They look ripped, as if they are torn open when the purple stuff pushes its way out.


You can really see the tearing on this top bud here. Amazing!


Look, there's a bunch of shreds still left on the purple stuff of that one! Fascinating. I wonder if the bud also gets thinner so that it's easier for the purple stuff to push its way out. Or do the buds really just disintegrate, sort of like the roots of a baby tooth when it's time for it to fall out?

PS - Can I just say that the macro function on my camera is a wonderful thing! It has allowed me to look so closely at these buds. I've been able to see things I never would have noticed if I was only using my eyes.

the tree

| No Comments
Story time. Today's story, The Tree by Karen Gray Ruelle, is about an old elm tree much like the Olmsted elm we said goodbye to this week. This tree is over 250 years old and still stands in New York City's Madison Square Park. This is its story.


The story begins in 1756 as a tiny seedpod begins to sprout in public ground in New York City near a post tavern on the road to Boston.


In addition to the beautiful illustrations, the book contains a tree time line on each page in the form of an ever-growing root coming from an ever-growing tree. Here we see the tree in the late 1700s just beginning its long life and long roots.


By 1814, the area had become a parade ground and was named Madison Square in honor of then president James Madison. Here a soldier leans against the tree as he speaks with passing children.


It wasn't until 1847 that the grounds became a city park. Twenty years later, the park would be home to the torch of the Statue of Liberty in a fund-raising effort to pay for the rest of the statue. For fifty cents, visitors could climb up onto the balcony. (They could climb the tree for free.)


The tree time line shows how large the tree had become by the mid 19th century and how many changes it had seen already.


Around the same time, Grand Central Station was built, moving train traffic away from Madison Square. The train depot became home to P.T. Barnum's Hippodrome and eventually the first Madison Square Garden.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the city began to grow around the park. The famous Flat Iron building was built. The park became a site for political demonstrations and the tree a meeting place.


The 1930s brought Dutch elm disease and "the elm, once a common tree, became quite rare." But this tree survived. The park around it however, fell into disrepair until it was restored at the end of the 20th century to the beautiful and vibrant park it is today.


In 1997, the park celebrated its 150th anniversary. The tree was 240 years old.


And although the dying limbs of the old tree have been removed, the trunk still stands. (It's by the Shake Shack, if you're planning a trip!)


For more info on the history of Madison Square Park and some of the magnificent trees in it, check out this recent article and the Madison Square Park website.

One more interesting fact: The current design of the park was based on a redesign done around 1870 by William Grant and Ignatz Pilat, who assisted Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of New York's Central Park.

snow on april fool's day

| No Comments
The trees are not amused.


Not this tree with its little green leaves just starting to arrive.


And not my tree with its tiny purple seeds peeking out.


And definitely not these flowers.


Not funny, Mother Nature.

October 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2011 is the previous archive.

May 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.12