I think that we have all seen what happens in the fall in the Rocky Mountains and all over the world – the leaves on trees change into beautiful colors and then fall off. That colorful display is always amazing to look at. Then after the leaves fall off the trees always seem so bare and empty. They are now ready to withstand winter.
To most of it seems that the trees are just there all winter, waiting for the days to get warmer again in the spring. Then in the spring, BOOM! One day you may notice that there are buds on the trees that are beginning to open up and grow into new leaves.
It seems like that is always one of the signs that spring is here in the Rocky Mountains – the trees are budding, or growing new leaves again. It appears that the buds just began to grow on the trees in the spring time, but in fact the buds were on the trees all winter long. This is important, so I am going to repeat it:
Buds are on the tree all winter long. In the spring time those buds finally open up and new leaves begin growing.
The next time you go outside this winter take a close look at some twigs on a tree. Look at the very tips of the twigs and you will see buds. These buds on the tips of the twigs are called ‘terminal buds’. Trees have these terminal buds on the tips of the twigs all winter long in order to protect the tree from the freezing cold temperatures of winter.
During the winter the tree does not have any leaves so it can not make its own energy. At the end of summer, the last new leaves the tree makes will become the buds that protect the tree all winter long. These winter buds contain all the tree will need to start growing again once it is spring.
Scientists, naturalists, and curious people can identify a tree during the winter when there are no leaves on the tree. They do this by carefully observing what is on the tree such as the bark and buds.