It’s always interesting on March walks to examine different types of buds and identifying the trees they are growing on. Today, we will concentrate on the above three.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) or Caorthann in Irish has buds that are egg shaped, grey, pointy and furry. The furriness is caused by white hairs which are tightly packed together. This tree species has been around since the ice age. It contributes wonderfully to wildlife because it produces nectar rich flowers in May and red berries for the birds in the autumn. It was considered a tree of good luck in olden times. Twigs were inserted in cultivated fields and placed over the doors of cow byres on May Eve to bring good crops and plenty of milk during the year (1).
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) or Feá in Irish has buds that are long, thin and pointed. They are reddish brown in colour resembling miniature spear heads. They are alternate, not opposite. Even though the tree is plentiful in Ireland it is not here that long. It has become naturalised since it was believed to have been introduced by the Normans in the 12th century. It lives for about 200 years. The emerging soft, green leaves of this tree in April are particularly attractive (2).
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) or Seiceamóir in Irish is related to the Maple. The buds are opposite on twigs. They are large, egg-shaped, scaly, pointy and green. Look carefully at the tips of the scales and you will notice that they are brown. It is unsure when sycamore was introduced to Ireland. A hardy tree, it will grow anywhere, even near the coast. Maybe the poet, Aileen Fisher, had this tree in mind when she wrote: “All winter in the tree buds, / the little leaves lie packed, / With tiny coats of emerald green, /All folded and exact. / And when the time is ready/ (I wonder how they know?/ They quietly unfold themselves/ And grow and grow. (3).