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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Subtle Signs of Spring

Missouri Department of Conservation
Wild plum.

Discover Nature this week with subtle signs of spring. If you’re yearning for signs of spring, look at the swollen buds on the branches of backyard trees and shrubs.

Buds have been present since last summer, but often go unnoticed when competing for attention with a shroud of summer greenery or brilliant fall colors. Buds form at the base of the stalk where last year’s leaves were connected to the twigs.

Each bud contains a master plan of everything needed for new growth. These tiny packages contain small leaves or flowers with cells that rapidly divide, carried by sugars for energy. This tender tissue is protected from winter’s drought by scales, hair, or specially adapted leaves.

Like getting a signal from an internal clock, water is pumped back into the tree at the precise time and buds begin to swell. The tree, dormant for months, springs into life with spectacular growth. All trees produce flowers, but some of our native trees produce eye-popping masses of blooms in the spring. These are the white-flowering serviceberry, wild plum, flowering dogwood and hawthorn, the brilliant pink red bud, and the striking red buckeye.

Trees are usually not tricked into leafing out too early because of unseasonably warm weather since they use more reliable cues than temperature. The amount of daylight each day and chemical signals within their cells tell trees when it’s the right time for bud growth.

More information about seasons in Missouri can be found online at mdc.mo.gov.

Josh Hartwig is the host of Discover Nature and a media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
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