Meet our Best Buds – Winter Edition

Winter provides the opportunity to observe plants in a whole new light and appreciate many features that are not easily visible when they are fully leafed out. The nests of wildlife that live in them, their beautiful bark, and their unique buds are more exposed and featured during this season. Here we focus on the buds of some of the common deciduous woody species that populate your parks and their identifying traits.

  1. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
    1. Featured Locations: August Wilson Park, Allegheny Commons North Promenade, Riverview Park Chapel Shelter Woods, Frick Environmental Center Woods
    2. Bud characteristics: opposite bud arrangement, broad, blunt pointed, red
    3. Other winter identifiers: slender and straight twig growth with red coloration, smooth gray bark on young trees
    4. Fun Fact: The technical term for the winged seeds, or ‘helicopters,’ is samara. This adaptation helps disperse the seeds further than its wide canopy in the spring.
  2. Dogwoods (Cornus florida and C. kousa)
    1. Featured Locations: Riverview Chapel Shelter, Mellon Square, Allegheny Commons, Highland Park Entry Garden, Bigbee Field, Frick Environmental Center
    2. Bud characteristics: opposite bud arrangement; C. Florida has round and flat-topped flower buds (onion shape), leaf buds cat claw shape; C. kousa flower buds look similar but are pointed
    3. Other winter identifiers: spreading/horizontal branching habit, green or purple colored twigs with an upswept look, grey-brown bark
    4. Fun Fact: The state tree and flower of Virginia.
  3. Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
    1. Featured Locations: Riverview Park Playground and Activities Building, Allegheny Commons North Promenade, Frick Environmental Center Woods, Schenley- Flagstaff Hill
    2. Bud Characteristics: alternate arrangement, long “duckbill” shape, purple-reddish
    3. Other winter identifiers: retain brown tulip-like seed cones, single-trunked with upswept branches, mature bark has distinct ridges, young bark is smooth and somewhat striped, oval shape growth habit
    4. Fun Fact: A fast-growing tree with a deep root system that assists with erosion control. In the Magnolia family.
  4. Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
    1. Featured Locations: Riverview Park Chapel Shelter Woods, Allegheny Commons North Promenade
    2. Bud Characteristics: opposite arrangement, large, dark brown, sticky and shiny
    3. Other winter identifiers: stout twigs, gray-brown bark, branches curved at tips, look on the ground for the spiny husks of the fruit or sometimes persist on the tree
    4. Fun Fact: Seeds are toxic but deer and squirrel can eat them; these large seeds look like chestnuts and are also called “conkers” which refers to a British game played with them.
  5. Magnolias (Magnolia spp.)
    1. Featured Locations: Allegheny Commons North Promenade, Mellon Square, Schenley at Westinghouse
    2. Bud Characteristics: alternate arrangement, large, hairy-silky, variety of colors- white, green, purple, gray
    3. Other winter identifiers: usually smaller or medium-sized, common in cultivated landscapes, silvery-gray smooth bark
    4. Fun Fact: They are thought to be one of the earliest known flowering plants. Beetles are their primary pollinators.

By: Maggie Herrick, Restoration Gardener

Red Maple buds with white background
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Flowering Dogwood buds at Chapel Shelter
Dogwoods (Cornus florida and C. kousa)
Horse Chestnut buds with park background
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Tulip Poplar Buds in park
Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Magnolia buds with a blue background
Magnolias (Magnolia spp.)