Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hickory Bud Scales

Plants can exhibit some amazing features. Here’s a display that’s often hidden high in the tree tops. When a Hickory bud opens and begins growth, exposed inner bud scales begin to enlarge. These scales are located at the base of the new growth and take on the appearance of large petals.

For a time, the scales seem to grow as rapidly as the new shoot. The compound leaves emerging from a bouquet of enlarged bud scales immediately lets you know that you are dealing with a Hickory.

As growth begins, the scales form a protective sheath over the developing leaves. There is a lot of speculation regarding the function of the bud scales. Possibly the new growth is delicate enough that protection is advantageous during early growth.

The bud scales may have the photosynthetic capabilities. The narrow leaflets take a while to expand and produce enough leaf surface to begin energy production, so the scales may give the tree an early boost of energy.

Some people have suggested that the bud scales form a barrier to leaf eating insects that may be traveling up the stem. It seems to me that any insect that could walk on leaves would be able to walk up and over the bud scales. Maybe the scales are a tasty growth that the insects prefer above leaves. This may reduce damage to the leaves.

Whatever the reason for their occurrence, the bud scales add attractive interest to the sprouts. Maybe their only function is to give people like me something to think about while walking through the woods.


  1. Thanks for featuring these. I've always marveled at them.

  2. Hi, Jain. This is one of those intriguing growths that you just have to stop and admire. I'm glad you enjoyed it.