How Do Buds Survive Winter?

Magnolia Bud
Many magnolia species feature showy bud scales densely covered with silver hairs. Photo by Ashley Gamell.

Next year’s leaves and spring-blooming flowers have already formed and are hidden inside the buds of deciduous trees around the garden. So how do these tender plant parts survive sub-freezing temperatures? Many are protected by tough, weatherproof bud scales, which fall off in spring when temperatures rise and the buds get ready to burst open and grow. The bud scales of magnolia trees are particularly showy. They are covered with soft, silver hairs that look a little bit like a fur coat and help insulate the buds from the cold. Visit a magnolia tree on Magnolia Plaza and you will see many of these fuzzy buds on its bare branches. You may also see last year’s discarded bud scales scattered on the ground beneath the tree. If you pick up one of last year's bud scales, you can feel how soft it is on the outside and how incredibly tough it is inside.

Kids can get outside to explore more incredible plant and animal strategies on our Winter Survival Nature Walks for 8- to 12-Year-Olds February 9.


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