Nature Notes

Buds: Nature’s Treats Come Gift Wrapped

By Greg Lecker

We made it through what some interpreted would be the end of the world.  In reality, one cycle ended and another cycle began – not just for the Mayans, but those of us following the Gregorian calendar for we begin a new calendar.

I’m a fan of etymology – the study of word origins.  I turned to the Online Etymology Dictionary for the source of our word “calendar”.  The word “calendar” has origins that provide useful meanings for us today.  The Old French “calendier” referred to a “list”.  The Latin “calendarium” implied an account box – which reminds one of the ever-present  discussion of a fiscal precipice.  The Romans used “calendae”, “kalendae” and “calends” to mark the first day of the Roman month.

Even in light of the world’s challenges, we have much to be thankful at close of year!  Sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder can be cheered by the fact that since the Winter solstice December 21, daylight has lengthened nearly ten minutes.  On December 25, Christmas, a conjunction of our moon and planet Jupiter just two degrees apart presented us with a pearl and a diamond glowing in the night sky.  December 28, 2012 marked a “bonus” full moon – the thirteenth of the year.

Nature offers us gift-wrapped treats that unwrap themselves, though much patience is required.  If a bulb holds a miniature flower bud and leaves within its protective sheath, then so too does a tree hold life within its buds.

Tamarack buds and cones (Larix genus)
Tamarack buds and cones (Larix genus)

To some, the Tamarack is mistaken as a dead evergreen.  Make no mistake, its brown buds will burst forth in a spring green fuzz.  Tamarack is deciduous and yet a conifer – as evidenced by the cones that are easily visible in the winter.

Magnolia buds - Leonard Messel Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri)
Magnolia buds – Leonard Messel Magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri)

Magnolia bud are enclosed within a soft, yet protective sheath.  Snow collecting on the bud’s fuzz reminds me of the pollen produced by the lengthening anthers of willow’s male flowers.

 White Pine buds (Pinus strobus)
White Pine buds (Pinus strobus)

Evergreens are especially appreciated at this time of year when nature paints with an otherwise especially limited monochromatic palette.  Who doesn’t appreciate the varied shades of dark green as well as the contrast between sharp dark needles and soft white snow?

Using the Latin verb “calare” — “to announce”, let us call out Happy New Year!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

%d bloggers like this: