Recently in twigs Category

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growing up

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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!

tree antlers

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My tree has antlers! A few weeks after I started watching my tree, I noticed that there are two young twigs growing out of the main trunk about 7 feet up and 5 feet below the main branches. They look just like antlers!


Now that I know how to look at a twig to see how old it is, I thought I'd see exactly how old these silly tree antlers are.


(Click to see a bigger version.) From counting the rings that mark the terminal bud scars, I'm estimating that this twig antler has been growing for about eight years. Which means that these antlers started to grow around the same year we moved in!

So is anything growing on these antlers?


Yes siree. They have the same buds as the twigs above, only they're a little smaller and a little darker. It looks like that one in the center is just on the brink of opening up though.

Another twiglet off of one of the antlers has even smaller buds, but one of them has definitely opened. I see those purple dots in there!


It'll be interesting to watch these twigs that are so much closer to the ground. How is life different for them down here? 

Fun fact: Did you know that you can tell the age of a goat by counting the rings on its horns? A deer's antlers, however, are actually very different from horns and fall off and regrow every year!

are you one? are you two? are you three?

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Today I looked for terminal bud scars on my twig. (See my last post for some info on these.)


Wow, there it is. Rings right above where these two tiny twiglets branch off. Here you can really imagine how the center bud broke through the end of the twig right there.

I had to kind of hang out the window to get this next picture, but I managed to get most of the entire twig in the picture. I found four spots where there were terminal bud scars.


The tip of the twig is right up by my hand there. Going down from there, there are three scars about an equal distance apart and then the next is waaaaay down the twig (the perspective here makes it seem shorter, but the twig is growing directly towards the window, so that part of the twig is much farther away from me). After that scar, the twig bark gets much thicker and then it joins to a branch. Since each of these scars indicates where new growth began in the subsequent year, I'd say that my twig is maybe five or six years old. And from the relative growth, I'd conclude that four years ago was a good year for my tree! (For what it's worth, the National Climactic Data Center says that 2007 was the 10th warmest year on record for the US!)

cool things on twigs

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Here's a little tree I walk past every day as I walk my boys to school.


It was planted last year after the tree that used to be here was finally removed (it hadn't been growing new leaves for a couple of years). The tree is just so darn cute! And it's short enough that I can reach up and grab hold of a twig to get closer look. So I did just that. After about 5 minutes of observing and taking the following pictures, the owner of the house next to the tree called out the window: "Hey, Alison, what'cha doin' out there?" Oops, busted.


It was so worth it though. Just look at those fabulous oval peachy red buds! Beneath each of the buds is a little scar from where the leaf from the last season fell off. And that's where the new bud grows. Talk about healing! If you look at the bottom of that tiny stem the three little buds are on, you can see some gray ridges. My teacher tells me that that's where the growth from the previous season ended. It's a scar made from the new bud pushing out of the tip there. (I noticed a bud on my tree the other day that had me asking this very question!) If we look down the length of the twig to find the next set of gray rings, we can see how far this twig grew last year.


I think this gray bump above this sentence might be it. Wow. I don't even know what kind of tree this is, but it seems to me that that's pretty good growth for such a little tree.

Now let's look at an amazing twig I found on the ground at the kids' school. This twig was so long and so green, I had to take some pictures of it. And it had the coolest buds! They're sort of fuzzy. I'm a sucker for fuzzy buds!


And, lookie, it has those growth scars as well.


One more twig to investigate before we return home. This one caught my eye because the very tips of the buds looked like they might be green. Leaves, maybe???


I've got a lot of questions about these types of buds. Is that a leaf? And if it is, is the whole leaf in there all folded and wrapped up already? And how does that brown part of the bud get wrapped around it like a screw? I love that there is something so perfectly wrapped and shaped like that in nature.

Anyhoo, the twig...


I see one area on the left twig there that looks like the rings of a terminal bud scar. But what really intrigued me about this twig were all the little white dots. My twig has white dots that I really notice only when it rains. The other twigs above all have them too in varying amounts. You know what I think? I think those are lenticels, which help the twig breathe. How cool is that?!

For more information on things that are on twigs check out this diagram.

catching raindrops

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tree sprouts

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After watching S's little bean sprout over the last weeks, I've started wondering how my tree buds will sprout. I've been thinking of them as spots where new leaves will just pop out. But is that what happens at the buds? If that's so then when do the branches ever grow longer? Is it possible that new branches will shoot out from the buds, with new leaves off of them? Perhaps the new shoots would even push the bud out along the end, like S's bean sprout keeps part of the bean up at the top.

My tree isn't telling me, so I went searching around the neighborhood for some signs of new growth on other trees and I found some interesting things.


The narrow little branch coming off after the cluster of buds is a lighter, redder color than the rest of the twig. Did that just grow in the last few weeks? It looks really new and young. It's so colorful and smooth. Are those little buds that are all clustered together also growing farther and farther away from that older looking part of the twig?


Here's another photo of a different twig on the same tree. You can really see how much lighter and redder this part is. And again there's two other little buds right there where the color changes. It's just as if the twig was growing from that point that is now in the middle.

And here's another little tiny twig I found on a small tree near the one above. The house behind these trees recently burned down and many branches were broken off as the firefighters were battling the blaze. I felt like it would be okay to snap off a tiny twig from the baby tree as it was almost completely severed from it tiny little trunk.


Look at how green the end of the twig is! The bottom part looks like a normal grayish twig, then there are some of those knuckles I noticed on a twig from my tree a couple of weeks ago and then it gets greener and greener, and then there's the bud. It really reminds me of that sprout of S's!

Is this going to happen on my tree? Nothing on my tree looks like really new growth. All the twigs are gray and bark-y looking, with the tips being slightly smoother and whiter. These newer parts don't have as many scars on them from old buds, but they don't look like they just grew this year. Hmmmmm..... Are all those buds on my tree's twigs going to sprout? That's a lot of buds. Is that why my tree seems to have these explosions of new branches?

what's missing from this picture?

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While examining my tree closely looking for any signs of sticky burrs or new leaves or anything really, I noticed that several of the branches have no buds at all. The tips of all these branches are so barren looking. They look almost broken off at the end.  Are these dead? I wonder if there is any chance that their buds will grow later.


It seems so sad that these dead branches are still hanging on the tree while that broken-off top branch I found in the snow was all covered with buds. I wonder if these have stayed on because they were protected from the wind and storms down here. But did that also mean that they didn't get enough light? Why did they die? And is it bad for the tree to have dead branches hanging on it?

I walked around the tree to get a different look at the dead branches and suddenly noticed two spots on the trunk where it looks like largish limbs must have been cut off of my tree.



And this reminded me of my little half-tree Bud on the other side of the house. So I paid him a visit to get a picture of the part that was dead for so long and then removed last year.


Ugh. That is just plain old wrong looking. It looks like a tree growing out of a tree or almost like the original tree was impaled by this other part. Yikes. Despite having this rather gruesome scar, Bud actually looks fine when he's got all his leaves. He's a sweet little tree.

I wanted to get a picture of the good side of Bud, so I went up on to the balcony and tried to get a photo of the crown.


You can still see the section that was cut off down there, but up here you can also see the pinky/red fleshy sort of buds that are growing on the tips and ends of Bud's twigs. There are a lot fewer buds on Bud than on my tree. Different growths for different folks, I guess. There are also lots of ridges on the twigs around the buds. Hmmm...I wonder what kind of tree Bud is???

what the rain revealed

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It snowed again here. And then it rained. I stuck my head out the window during a momentary pause in the rain today to get a close look at my tree. I was surprised to find that the rain has brought out some of the different features of the branches. The moisture has darkened the bark and I can see more details on it than I could when the tree was dry. I noticed one thing in particular.


Little white dots on the bark of my twig. I had actually been looking for these for a while. They were sort of one missing bit of information that I felt I needed to identify my tree confidently. Having found them, I'm going to go out on a limb (sorry!) and declare that my tree is an ash tree. Apparently ash trees also have these smiley face bumps under the buds. I can see these more clearly on my branch today as well. I have a smiley ash tree. Grin.

PS - I love this photo because I can see my twig so well, including all of its fabulous little reddish brown buds, but also I can see the main shape of my tree in the background. It has two arms that reach out horizontally and then two that go up. My twig lives on a branch off of the long horizontal limb on the left.

when the bough breaks

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The other day, I noticed that the top branch of my tree was broken. I speculated that it might have broken off in one of our January snowstorms and that there might be some broken branches beneath the snow surrounding my tree. After two days of well above average temperatures, a good deal of snow melted (there's now only about a foot surrounding the tree), and, indeed, a small group of branches has been revealed. Given their location in the snow, I'd say they broke off during one of the last couple of snowstorms that dumped feet of wet, heavy snow on top of earlier frozen snow.


Since this is the city, the nearest tree is many meters away in another cutout on the other side of a driveway. Therefore, I feel confident that these branches did belong to my tree. Furthermore, the largest branch in this pile looks similar in diameter to the branch at the very top of my tree and has the same sort of break on it. I'm guessing that this is the exact bit that broke off up top.

I snapped off one small twig to get a closer look. It's covered with little buds just like the twig I can see out of my window. And look, the buds seem to have little shells that they are coming out of. Or something. They're not just solid bumps on the side of the twig. These, at least, were already developing into something more complex. They're also soft. When I press on them, it's like pushing on the eraser tip of a pencil. I wonder how close these were to starting to "pop"?  


It's a little sad that this twig, ready and waiting to sprout new leaves, has been separated from the tree. But its loss is my gain. I snatched up the little guy to bring inside for further investigation. 


The twig is covered in these dark semi-circular bumps that look like they were the base or shelf under an old bud. At the top of each bud shelf there's what looks like a cut, maybe where the leaf was connected and fell off?  The twig also has several segments, separated by what look like knuckles. Perhaps these are from growth each year.  Each year, the twig grows longer at the wrinkly, knuckly part?

What a lucky find for me!

top and bottom

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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?

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About this Archive

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

trees are weird is the previous category.

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