Leafy detectives

Spring has sprung and now there is an explosion of new life and colour in many of our hedgerows and woodlands. How does this happen?

Dormant buds, which will become this year’s leaves and flowers, were grown last summer and protected through the winter within thick overlapping bud scales. Triggered by increasing day length and warmth, buds begin to swell, burst open and new leaves unfurl. Elder tree buds are the first to open followed by hawthorn. It’s an exciting time waiting for the next trees to leaf. I love the large sticky horse chestnut buds and the soft bright lime green leaves of the beech tree.

Try out these activity ideas to explore the leafy signs of spring:

Leaf watch

Explore your garden and local area to look for signs of new leaf growth.  Carefully cut a small tree twig with buds and put in a jar of water. Keep inside on a warm window shelf. Over the next few weeks, you can watch the buds swell and how the tiny new green leaves delicately unfold and grow. Can you identify your leaf and tree? Click here for a Leaf spotter chart to help you.

Extra challenge: Collect twigs from different trees to compare their leaves as they grow – look at their shape, size and texture. Young beech leaves feel soft and delicate with hairy edges, and hazel leaves feel fuzzy. Use a magnifying lens if you have one, to look at these small details, particularly the intricate leaf veins.

Horse chestnut bud (top) and seedling (bottom) grown in my greenhouse – first leaves are fully open already.

Canopy reflection

On a warm sunny day, lie under the canopy of a tree and look up at the sky above. I love how the branches sway and move in the breeze, creating patterns against the sky and shadows on the grounds. Listen to how the trees talk to each other – what are they saying?  I also like to sit under a tree, with my back against its trunk, with a small hand-held mirror. When you look down into the mirror you’ll see the trees branches and canopy reflected above – it’s really magical and gives you a different perspective of the world! Maybe imagine you’re a squirrel scampering amongst the tree branches.

Happy day dreaming!

Mrs Mitchell

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