Watch this Big Ol’ Oak Tree Grow its First Buds for Spring!

picture of oak tree in spring

As the skies clear up, it is always a joy to see life spring back into Pittsburgh with all of its trees bursting into full bloom.  As the seasons slide past me through my window, I always find comfort from this trusty oak tree right outside.  I’ve watched its vibrant green leaves turn to earthy shades of orange and brown as fall came around.  During this especially snowy winter, I’ve listened to this bare and leafless tree creak and sway in the bitter cold wind.  Now that spring is right at our doorstep, this tree has been showcasing more and more color with its newly emerged buds!  

Before taking a closer look at this tree’s buds, it’d be useful to cover how to identify an oak tree!  I can’t see the leaves right now, but luckily I was able to do a leaf rubbing of this tree during fall last year!  Here’s a little tutorial on to how to make a leaf rubbing in your own home: 

finished product of leaf rubbing video

Oak trees can be identified by their distinctive lobed leaves that can have rounded or pointed tips.  This leaf rubbing in particular has 5 narrow, bristle-tipped lobes.  As we get deeper into the spring season, I’ll be able to see the color of these leaves shift and change as they grow to maturity.  These leaves are essential for the tree to capture the sun’s energy and create useful nutrients through the process of photosynthesis.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at the beginnings of an oak leaf!   

buds on oak tree

This picture was taken on a particularly bright Sunday on April 4th.  This is the closest I could get to the tree without leaning off of my balcony, but we can still safely observe the beginnings of spring from afar.  From the blue arrows, you can already see that the tree is forming leaf buds!  The leaf buds of oak trees are usually clustered at the end of each twig, and these buds in particular are already starting to take on a slight shade of green. 

oak tree buds

This picture was taken two days later on April 6th, and you can already see how much bigger these buds have grown in such a short amount of time!  As these buds start to get greener by the day, they will continue to unfurl and grow.  The warmer temperatures typically cue different trees to start forming buds and growing leaves so they can take advantage of as much sunlight as possible.   

sprouted oak tree buds

This final picture was taken on April 13th.  With only 7 days passing since the last photo, these buds have already sprouted to reveal these small leaves.  As spring progresses, these leaves will grow to full size as more sunlight, nutrients, and water become available.  These elements are essential to ensure that this tree’s foliage can continue to grow and bloom.  In the coming weeks, I will be keeping a close eye on these tiny buds.  For the time being, I hope you all enjoyed getting a glimpse of this trusty ol’ oak tree’s growth. 

Nathan Villanueva - Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Intern