Buds Ahoy!

I was asked if could produce the bud gallery below as a high resolution poster - it can be
downloaded here  It's an A2  PDF (which is 4 times A4, but the will resize to A3 or A4).

Dutch version (Tranlastion Joost Geraets)
Danish version
Norwegian version (Translation Anders Often)

A Hawthorn bud, bursting over the course of two weeks

Sycamore from bud to budburst. The stem of the bud begins to elongate and the bud scales are pushed apart. The leaves unfold and spread out their surface, as the stem grows in length.  The bud scales curl back and then after a few weeks fall off. The chlorophyll in the leaves develops fully on exposure to light, then photosynthesis begins. The leaves are available almost at once having already formed in the bud.

If buds are an arboreal version of a bird’s egg, then the miniature shoots are the chicks encased in eggshells.  All over patch these embryonic shoots are breaking out.

It’s one big beautiful budburst!

The explosion of fresh green foliage is a such a notable feature of springtime that it’s easy to forget that the buds were products of the previous year’s growing season.

Trees have come up with a clever strategy. As soon as the days start of lengthen, and temperatures rise, conditions for photosynthesising to return  - so  ‘hit the photosynthetic ground running’ – have leaves ready and waiting to burst into the sunlight.

A dissected sycamore bud with extracted leaf. The stem of these condensed shoots is very short and its leaves are packed so tightly that they overlap, each one wrapping round the next above it. The inner leaves are folded and crinkled so that large surface area can be packed into a small space.

The buds scales are the outermost leaves which are thicker and tougher and often a darker colour. Scales protect the delicate inner foliage leaves against predation, disease and drying up.

So the buds were produced during the abundance of the previous summer. Inside each of these buds are coming year’s new shoots in miniature. They see out the harshness of winter in a dormant state waiting for the springtime return to favourable conditions.

A bud gallery

Silver Birch
Horse Chestnut
Dog Rose

Goat Willow
English Oak

Budburst timing varies between species, elders and hawthorns have already broken out with a vengeance, oaks and ashes are still biding their time. It also varies from year to year with temperature playing a big role. For this reason budburst is a very useful indicator in phenology - the study of nature’s calendar – the timing of events in nature.

In the UK there are records of this kind going back to 1684. What these records show is that many springtime events (migrant bird arrival, butterfly emergence being others) are happening progressively earlier in response to warmer spring temperatures.

One study shows that horse chestnut has advanced by 12 days over the last three decades, oak 10 days and ash 6. So some species are responding more rapidly than others to a changing climate, this may well bestow a competitive advantage to the species which are the ‘early adopters’.

Many other species have to synchronise their life cycles with budburst - for example the insects that eat the fresh leaves, and the birds that they rely on them to feed their chicks. These species will need to be adapt very quickly to a changing world.

An elder shoot coming into leaf. The leaves at the end of  shoot emerge from terminal buds, they extend the length of the shoot. Further back are the lateral buds which make new branches.

Bud gallery 2
English Elm


White Poplar
Lombardy Poplar

White Willow
Golden weeping willow
Goat Willow (leaf bud)
This is like those 'making of' bits at the end wildlife documentaries - that I usually turn off...only a fairly crap version. I took a photo every day for two weeks
...er...that's it.
Get this


  1. A lovely 'bud gallery' and great work with the animation, it's such a wonderful time of year. :)

    1. It certainly is - thanks a lot Jan

    2. fabulous collection, thank you very much for educating me...

    3. Thank you so much for sharing this, reminds me of college Winter idents!

  2. Brilliant blog on buds ,passed on site to Bonsai enthusiasts to whom this is such a useful site, hope that is OK? Many thanks for the work you have done in presenting this so well.

  3. Fantastic, Thank you for kindly sharing this useful work.

  4. Thank you! Exceptional & generous of you to share :)

  5. This is really useful - thank you for sharing :)

  6. Brilliant idea! Thanks for your generosity. Would be great to have similar downunder where I am in SE Queensland. Come for a visit? Bring your camera?

  7. Phil, I've put a link to your poster onto the Facebook Page for our Outdoor Degree students. I hope that's OK.

  8. A lovely gallery, but the thing I love the most, the Stranglers reference in the html address. :-)

    Can't stop singing it now! :-D

    1. That's a bud based ear-worm for you!

  9. Thanks, have shared to our orchard group :)

  10. Dear Phil - earlier this week i tweeted a link to your webpage and a copy of your "bud" poster. Within a few hours it had been retweeted a few hundred times. This morning i offered to donate £100 to Tree Aid if we reached 1,000 "faves" and we just have! Thank you for creating such an interesting and beautiful poster! Andrew @andyheald

    1. brilliant Andrew!- that's fantastic news -rather amazingly it's gone a bit viral on Facebook as well 1,000s - bit flabbergasted, who would have thought that buds would be the new rock and roll :)

  11. would love to use the poster/images in rakesprogress magazine in some way - email me if that's something you'd consider victoriagaiger@rakesprogressmagazine.com

    1. Hi Victoria, yes what do you have in mind? P.s I emailed you

  12. Fantastic resource, many thanks for creating this and sharing it.

  13. Hi do you mind if I share this with Leicestershire Tree Wardens please? it is a fantastic resource to aid tree ID.


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