Sunday, February 28, 2016

Buds Poised

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Early signs of spring are showing. The Hepatica bloomed and the trout lily blooms (Erythronium umbilicatum) are starting. A few red maple flowers are to be found as well and yesterday I saw a large patch of the annual bluets (Houstonia pusilla) in full bloom.

Most people don’t notice these things; the big show is yet to arrive. While we wait, I enjoy noticing the swelling buds of trees and shrubs.

While some buds look the same as they have all winter, others are noticeably growing larger. In some cases, like the spicebush (Lindera benzoin), the color reflects the color of the flower because it is the flower bud that you are seeing. The Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) gives a hint of the white flowers yet to come.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) flower buds

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia)

Aesculus pavia

Sometimes the flowers are inside the leaves, like the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). I can usually tell which buds will have flowers because they are so much larger, but sometimes I get fooled and the bud opens with only leaves.

Viburnum and azalea (Rhododendron) buds are similar in that regard as well – bloom buds are noticeably larger (and they don’t even contain the leaves!).

Crabapple (Malus angustifolia) leaves
Keep an eye on your shrub and tree buds and watch them expand as the days get longer. Earlier blooming plants usually start first. You might even find it interesting to keep a journal of the changes.

Phenology is the study of plant life cycle events and how they change over time due to climate. Are certain plants blooming earlier now than they were 10 years ago?

Well, whether they are or not, it’s always interesting to notice and appreciate how much nature can pack into that tiny bud package. 

As for that honeysuckle in the first picture, it's been blooming all winter. Another flower was blooming just a few feet away.

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) blooming in February


  1. In central Georgia, the bluets, dandelions and wild geraniums are in bloom. My front yard is beautiful. You can see the blue and purple hue with the occasional yellow flower of white puff of the dandelion. Walking across, you can appreciate the bluets.

  2. Thanks for the preview of what is to come. Being in North-eastern Pennsylvania, I still have a while to wait...but today it really felt like spring...and I do feel like it might be an early one here for a change.

    Speaking of bluets, I finally got some established last year. I can't wait until they bloom this year...and until they SPREAD!