This bud’s for you.

While it is arguably always happy hour somewhere, these buds won’t quench your thirst, bring forth the Clydesdales, or provoke the “taste great, less filling” argument.  

My favorite buds are the ones that are found outside on twigs and branches. Though it is only early March, and it seems that the hidden leaves won’t bud-ge from their cozy cocoon, I am considering plants’ upcoming spring transformation. From bud to flower and leaf is nothing short of a miracle, one that always fills me with wonderment and awe. Buds hold magic.

Though we will see only little change in their condition until later in the spring, the potential of these buds is truly tremendous.

Buds are condensed, undeveloped shoots, holding the next year’s stems, flowers, and leaves that promise the plant both food and fertilization. Food, of course, comes after leaf-out when the leaves can use their surface area and chlorophyll for photosynthesis, while the flowers assure reproductive potential. The growth of stems and twigs expands the plant’s size and reach.

For those on a bud-get, looking at a tree’s twig just might be the perfect no-cost activity. A walk around the yard or in the woods yields a bountiful bunch of buds which can help you identify the leafless, though not lifeless, trees. Like leaves, buds from different species of trees are unique.

But, first a primer.

Buds found at the end of a twig are called terminal buds. This is one of the cases where terminal is not terrible. Terminal buds can be single or multiple. Oaks are trees whose terminal buds are bunched — they are also oval and scaly for additional identity clues. Other terminal buds are single, such as those on beech trees, which have a single elongated terminal bud. The largest individual terminal bud that comes to mind is cabbage.

Some trees have bud buddies that can be found on either side of the terminal bud. These are called lateral buds and also occur down the stem or twigof a plant. Lateral buds can be of differing sizes. The smaller ones usually open up to become leaves, while the larger ones become flowers. Brussel sprouts are considered lateral buds.

Buds, and twigs for that matter, can be found in one of three arrangements. These are opposite, alternate, and whorled. Opposite buds are found on opposite sides of the twig at the same location or node, while alternate have a zigzag pattern. Whorled are three or more buds that circle around the twig. Conifers can have whorled arrangement of twigs.

Opposite buds and twigs warrant their own paragraph. There are not many opposite plants in the Northeast, and even fewer on the Vineyard. This clever key will help you remember which opposites attract. Remember MAD CAP HORSE — M is for maple, A is for ash, D is for dogwood, all of which have opposite arrangements. Add to this fraternity the CAPriofoliaceae family of plants (honeysuckle, elderberry and viburnums); but don’t forget the HORSE chestnut. These are all of the opposites.

I eagerly await the stirring of spring and the opening of the buds. This has always come in the past, according to Anais Nin, “when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

“To blossom” is the minor miracle that each shoot is just now gearing up to perform — as long as someone doesn’t nip it in the bud.


Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown.