Recently in questions Category

Page 2 of 2

it's a popcorn tree

| No Comments
I've been stuck thinking about that one tree I saw on my Valentine's Day walk with all the sticky burrs.


What struck me besides the fact that the tree was crazy looking with all those prickly balls on it, was that it looked so much like my tree, just covered with sticky burrs. The bark was very similar and the branches seemed to grow the same way as well. But my tree didn't have any of those, uh, things on it. Or did it? After a day of thinking about it, I wasn't so sure, so I decided to really search my tree.  And sure enough...


I found two!


OMG, are more on the way? Is it going to be filled with those things like the other tree?

Now, I was so curious about the sticky burrs and what they might be, I started looking for some hanging low down on another tree somewhere where I could get a better look at them. The other day, I hit the jackpot.


Turns out that up close, they look just like sticky burrs. But then there's this little leaf popping out of them. Could this be how the buds open up? Are they like popcorn kernels that just burst open all at once? I kind of thought that buds would unfold all lovelyly like a flower opens. This does not look like it does that. (Note: This tiny twiglet is only about three inches long and each of the little popcorn buds is about a centimeter big.)

So I run upstairs to tell my husband that I think I've discovered something about my tree. I tell him about the sticky burrs and that I think my tree will soon be covered in these popcorn buds. He thinks for a while and then says "oh yeah, it does that."

That. Is. So. Cool.

In the three days since I took these pictures of the first popcorn buds on my trees, I've found six more. They're small and hard to find, but I swear there's a new one every day! It's been really sunny recently. Lots of light. And we had a little warm spell on Valentine's. I wonder if that's why my tree is getting started with its popcorn buds now.

But why was the other tree already covered in them when my tree only had two? (Not that I'm jealous or anything.) Why does one tree get ahead of another? It's across the street. Does it get more light? Is it not about the light? Maybe there's better soil in the sidewalk cutout over there. Maybe it's older? Younger? Maybe every tree is just a little different like kids learning to walk or talk.

I'm so excited that something's happening!

top and bottom

| No Comments
Today I went up to the boys' room upstairs to get a different look at my tree. I can see the very top of the tree here and can look down and get a good sense of how many major limbs there really are. In order to capture this, I decided to draw another picture.


I noticed A LOT of new things about my tree. First, I noted that there were four major limbs coming off of the trunk. One of them has split into two similarly wide limbs a few feet up. The next set of branches go off in all sorts of directions. Some have grown downwards, some horizontally, some started growing up and then curved down. What was really interesting, though, was how there would be a stretch of branch with no smaller branches coming off of it and then, bam!, it's like an explosion of new branches all growing out from about the same area. I tried to capture a few of these in my drawing. They looked like the streaks that fireworks leave in the sky, all bursting from the same spot. And, in fact, they are very reminiscent of the original four limbs all bursting out of the main trunk at around the same height. I can see this same pattern repeated in some of the smaller branches too. Fascinating.

Also fascinating was the fact that all of the next set of thinner branches (the ones that are covered with buds) all reach up towards the sky. Even though the branches they have grown off of may be horizontal or even hanging down, their little branches curve back up toward the sky. Neato. Is this to get the leaves up to the sun? How is it then that the larger branches and limbs don't also reach up to the sky? Weren't they the little branches at one point? Did they change direction as they got bigger?

Up here I could also see that the branch that is at the tallest point of the tree has broken, probably either from the strong winds or heavy snow we've had this winter. It looks like something large broke off, a whole branch with smaller branches perhaps. Maybe we'll find it buried under the snow beneath the tree someday. Near that big break, there is a smaller branch that has been ripped off the main branch but is still hanging on. I'm curious to see how this branch develops in the spring. Will a broken branch grow the same way the others do? Will the cut heal itself?

When walking by my tree later in the day, I noticed - I'll admit it, for the first time! - a set of small, thin, smooth, obviously young branches growing out of the main trunk much lower than the main limbs. I'd estimate that the main limbs branch off around 11 or 12 feet up, but these new branches just pop out of the trunk at about 7 feet up. They're so weird!


It's like they were just stuck on there, like funny antlers. There is nothing else growing around them. Big question of the day: Why on earth would these start growing here?

a closer look

| No Comments
Okay, let's just get this out in the open. I'm not good at drawing. When my three year-old daughter comes to me and asks me to draw a dog or a lion or something, I honestly tell her that her drawing of it will be much better than mine. Her pictures seem much more meaningful. She draws what she's understood about the thing. Maybe that's just the face of a person, so she draws a giant face and adds a few stick legs and arms. (The Germans have a name for this that I love: Kopffüssler, or Headfooted). When I draw, I have no idea where to start. In some ways, I know way too much about dogs to ever draw a picture of one that is meaningful. In other ways, I know way too little. When was the last time I really looked closely at a dog?

For my investigation of my tree, I am supposed to do some drawing. The idea of these science drawings is to take a closer look, to "see" more. Our science textbook suggests that the primary benefit of drawing in science class is "simply that it takes time. It keeps children in the company of an object long enough for them to become familiar with it."[1] The point of this journal is for me to practice the type of science I'd like to teach, therefore, I'm going to draw. Like my daughter does. What do I see? What makes sense to me? I am encouraged by these words: "Freed from the imagined burden of having to create aesthetically pleasing pictures...focus on the subject at hand and learn about it through drawing."[2]

Alright. Here's a sketch of a small section of my tree, as viewed from our living room window.


There's really a lot going on in just this tiny bit that I drew. The bark on the trunk and the large horizontal branch is really rough and mossy looking. It looks like it's full of cracks like paint peeling. The long ridges in the bark run along the length of the branch like poorly built parallel streets, rarely straight, but rarely crossing or meeting.

As a part of my tree-watching assignment, I am supposed to pick one specific twig on my tree and watch it particularly in order to get a close up look at the changes that are happening. Sometimes you can't see the twig for the trees, you know! In order to get to know my twig well, I chose to draw it. It extends towards me off the branch I've drawn above at the point I've labeled with a teeny tiny asterisk.


One thing I noticed while drawing this was just how symmetrical the little branches are on this twig. I couldn't get the perspective right, but there'll be a pair coming out on either side from about the same point and then the next pair will be coming out opposite from each other and usually 90 degrees offset from the first pair. I wonder what causes branches to grow like that. Our textbook suggests that through drawing, "children begin to realize what they know and what they don't know."[3] I don't know why branches grow the way they do. Is it totally random? I did notice that most of the tips of each tiny branch of my twig seem to have three buds - one at the very tip and one on either side. This seems like it could be the reason for the symmetrical branching. The center bud continues the main center branch and the two on the sides become the two new branches going off in opposing directions. So what happened where there aren't two opposing branches? Was there no bud there for some reason? Why are there some branches with just one or two buds at the tip? Did something happen to the second or third buds there? Did they start growing and then break off?

Now, in case my drawings haven't been quite as meaningful to you as they were to me (my textbook comforts me here a little too: "the sloppy or incomplete appearance of a particular science drawing may belie the role that creating it played in helping [one] to learn"[4]), here's my twig in multicolored megapixels for you.


The photo really captures the different color of this branch from the main one. It is also amazingly smooth. I am guessing that it's because this branch is newer and younger. As you move away from the main branches, the smaller branches get smoother and lighter in color. Will they look like the larger branch there in ten years?

(You might notice that I'm highlighting my questions as I'm writing about my tree. I might want to come back to them, so I thought it would be helpful to make them easier to find in a post.)

[1] Doris, E. (2010). Doing What Scientists Do. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. p. 113
[2] Doris, p. 128.
[3] Doris, p. 113.
[4] Doris, p. 128.

Page 2 of 2

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 recent entries in the questions category.

other trees is the previous category.

roots is the next category.

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