Recently in flowers Category

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This spring, I've been watching the slow awakening of deciduous trees, you know, the trees that lose their leaves in the fall and grow them back in the spring. But there are some trees that stay green all year round: conifers. Back in my second post, I mentioned that all I know about conifers I learned from They Might Be Giants. I knew that conifers didn't lose their needles in the fall, but I hadn't really thought about what happens to them in the spring. Until last week, when I walked by some bushes and noticed that they had developed bright little light green tips.


How cute is that?! It's like highlights! This must be new growth. You can even spot some little brown bud-like bits at the base of the new growth. I wonder how similar their development is to the deciduous trees I've been following?


Elsewhere in trees-that-do-not-behave-like-the-ones-I've-been-watching are the weirdest trees on my street: the honey locusts. At least I think they are honey locusts. They have been the slowest trees to start blooming around here and are just starting to get their leaves now. At the end of April, when my tree was full of pollen-covered flowers and the Norway maples were bringing bright green to the whole neighborhood, they looked like this...


The honey locusts have these uneven zigzag branches that make them look super creepy. They remind me of the spooky forest that Dora the Explorer constantly has to tiptoe through to get to the other side. In the winter, they looked almost pitch black.


Honey locusts are actually even creepier than this. Regular honey locust trees have thorns. And not like little rose thorns. These are big, menacing thorns that look like something from the age of the dinosaurs (which they very well may be!).


The variety that is planted for shade in the city is thornless, however. Earlier this month, I spotted a honey locust a few blocks away that had started developing its leaves a little earlier than the ones on my street and noticed that it too had thorns. Only on the branches though, thank goodness!


Even if they aren't growing thorns out of their trunks, the honey locusts around me are growing small twigs (like the one above) and flowers and leaves directly out of the trunk. Here's one honey locust a block away from me back at the end of April.


The little buds are coming straight out of the trunk! They seem to be coming out at spots where there are these knots. I wonder if they have created the knots by repeatedly sprouting here or if they are growing here because the bark is somehow different here. And it's not just this tree. All the honey locusts have these buds growing on the trunk. Even the youngest one.


Three weeks later, the little buds have developed into leaves and flowers.


These are the same leaves and flowers that are growing up in the branches. I just can't get over the fact that they are growing down here as well. There's something about this kind of tree, it seems, that just wants to grow wacky stuff out of everywhere.

The honey locust has long compound leaves with what looks like 15 or so leaflets and I know from my kids tree id book that it makes the crazy long seedpods (up to 18" long!) that we see all over the sidewalks around here in the fall.

It's a weird tree. For more about the honey locust, check out this post from BiologyDude.

boy meets girl

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Although Brookline's town tree inventory says that only about 4% of the town's street trees are ash trees, there are about 10 of them in the two blocks around our house.

my tree with three more ashes across the street

A few weeks after I first started to watch my tree, I began to suspect that these other trees were the same kind of tree as mine. Once my tree started to produce its little purple flowers however, I became doubtful. Only about half of the trees I'd identified as also being ash trees had these flowers. The others seemed to be growing some other kind of leafy something, most likely a totally different kind of flower. But now that the true leaves have started to grow on all these trees, I can see that they are indeed all ash trees. So why the different flowers?

To explain, I have to return to the mystery of the sticky burrs (those crazy brown popcorn-looking balls that I had originally spotted on a few of the other ashes and then discovered on my tree). The sticky burrs turned out to be galls, which are growths caused by a tiny mite that lays its eggs in the male ash tree flowers. Some ash trees, like mine, produce only male flowers. The male flowers are the purple pollen-producing clusters that were all over my tree.


Down the street, there is an ash tree that has entirely different looking flowers. The bark on this tree is the same as mine. The leaves are the same. The structure of the twigs and the pattern of growth are all the same. The only difference is the flowers.


These have to be the female flowers! They are like long fingers reaching out to catch the pollen on tiny red tips.


Another sign that this is a female ash tree is the fact that there are no droppings under this tree like there are under the male ash trees. The male trees like mine have recently shaken off all of their pollen-laden flowers and covered the sidewalks beneath them with little brown tree poops.

male ash tree surrounded by droppings

But if there are no pollen-producing flowers on this female tree, where does she get pollen for fertilization? Well... from the tree in the very next sidewalk cutout: a big all-male ash tree. Awwww, they're a couple!


After I discovered this little couple, I decided to take a closer look at the ash trees right around mine (there are 5 directly across the street). You can spot the female right away from how clean the sidewalk is beneath her. She's the one without a ring of poopy-looking flowers underneath her.


But here's the really fascinating thing. Of the five ashes across the street, 2 are boys like mine, there's the 1 girl in the middle, and the other two trees are -- get this! -- both.


They have obvious male flower clusters still hanging on some of their twigs but they also have tons of the finger-like female flowers. How cool is that?! I've said this before, but it bears repeating: trees are weird.

(I found this website really helpful in identifying the different ash tree flowers.)

maple leaves

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One week ago, Bud - the little maple tree in front of our house - was just starting to sprout leaves. I was surprised to see them come out of the same buds that had produced all the fabulous tiny green flowers.


A few days later, I took a peek at the maple down the street where we park our car. It's generally been about a week ahead of Bud, so I was hoping to find some real leaves. And there they were, all shiny and new. They've got that classic maple leaf shape too!


So I knew there would be lovely maple leaves on Bud this week. This morning I went out on the balcony to get a close look at Bud and was not disappointed.


Not only is the leaf fully formed, but the flowers have started to sprout or change into the maple "key" seeds (you know, those helicopter shaped seeds that spin down from the tree). I wonder if all of the flowers will produce these keys?

I was curious about other maples, so I went back to visit a maple I'd spotted on the playground a couple of weeks ago. It's not a Norway maple like Bud or the tree by our parking space. I knew this because it was so red! It still looked like a maple though. The buds looked exactly the same and the flowers were very similar. But where Bud is bright and cheery in lime green, this reddish maple was simply stunning.


Two weeks later and it looks like this:


Oh my, all the red's gone. There's a definite maple leaf though and some maple keys. Right next to this maple was another with gorgeous winged keys coming off of bright red stems.


A quick look at the What Tree is It? site (can you tell that I love that site??) helped me see the key difference (ha, ha, I made a tree pun) between these two types of maples: the distance between the two wings of the key.


The Norway maples have wings that are widely separated, whereas the playground maples have wings that are quite close to one another. What tree is it? says that would make my mystery trees on the playground bona fide red maples!

from flowers to leaves in one day

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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

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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?

soylent green

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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.

maples in bloom

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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

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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?

now in color

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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. 

spring is all around

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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.


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This page is an archive of recent entries in the flowers category.

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