Spiders in the Garden

Editor’s Note: While this was posted by Jeff, it was written by Clair, the newest member of the BHF team.  She has been working hard to improve our propagation beds and in the process was inspired to write this appreciation of Arachnids. Enjoy!

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) with a captured wasp

If you have been outside at all lately, whether walking through the woods, spending time in your garden, or even just sitting on the porch, chances are you’ve come in contact with a spider, or at least its web.  Most spiders have gotten a bad rap over the years as something to fear. Movies, Halloween decorations, pest control advertising, and the spiders’ skittish behavior play into these fears. While most spiders are venomous, very few have the jaw-power or enough venom to do any real harm to a human.  The brown recluse and the black widow are exceptions, but chances are slim you will come across these in your garden (Even if they did manage to bite you the chances of it being fatal are basically zero). Remember, you are much larger than a spider and they are more interested in getting away from you than biting you.

You may be thinking, ‘well, even if the spider won’t harm me, they eat everything, including the pollinators, so why have them around?’  True, spiders are not picky eaters and will eat the “good bugs” along with the “bad.” Spiders may be the most beneficial predator in your garden and play a huge role in controlling pests.  They are not selective in the insects they eat, so it is guaranteed that they will occasionally snag a bee or butterfly in their web, but the few beneficials they do kill is no match for the natural pest control they provide (free of charge, I might add!).    Spiders will feast on aphids, armyworms, leafhoppers, flea-hoppers, leafminers and spider mites. They attack the spruce budworm, pine sawfly, sorghum midge and tobacco budworm. They especially like caterpillars, thrips, plant bugs, cucumber beetles, scarabs and flies. Larger spiders eat larger prey, so some will even eat wasps, cicadas, and grasshoppers.  If you’re really lucky, you may even get to see a spider and a praying mantis battle it out.

There are two types of spiders that you are likely to come across in your garden: web spinners, or orb weavers, and hunters.  Garden spiders and crab spiders are very common web spinners in Georgia. They spin their webs between plant stalks, tree branches, or even from tree branch to ground.  Spiders usually hang out in the middle of their web and wait for an unsuspecting insect to fly into the nearly invisible trap. Garden spiders are often large, like the yellow and black orb weaver or the green garden spider, so hopefully you will catch a glimpse of them before accidentally walking straight through their web.  However, they sometimes hide in a protected corner and wait for their prey from a safe spot. Crab spiders tend to be small and crouch in the center of the web with their eight legs pulled under their armored shell, making them harder to detect as you approach their web.    

Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) on its nearly invisible web.

Wolf spiders are a common hunting spider and do not spin traditional webs.  They are most likely to be found on the ground, nesting in mulch, ground covers and old wood piles.  If you have tall grass in or near your garden you may be lucky enough to attract a funnel spider. The aptly named funnel spider creates a dense funnel with their silk and waits safely in the back for prey to wander onto the outer funnel before they attack.  

Female spiders tend to lay eggs in the fall.  They may hatch quickly or overwinter in an egg sack before emerging in the spring.  Wolf spiders will attach the egg sack to their body and carry it with them if they feel they are in danger and need to move.  When the baby spiders emerge from the egg sack they will “balloon” by shooting a silky thread from their web spinner into the air. When it attaches to a sturdy object (leaf, branch, twig, building, etc.) they will ascend the thread and find a good place to start their first web (anyone remember “Charlotte’s Web?”).

Rabid Wolf Spider (Lycosidae rabidosa) female with egg sack attached

  To encourage spiders in your garden plant a variety of plants with varying heights, preferably plants native to Georgia. Taller plants provide a structure for orb weavers to attach their webs, and low growing ground covers create niches in which the hunters can hide.  Mulch provides a good home and helps retain moisture for wolf spiders since they do not have webs to catch the morning dew. Leave small patches of bare ground here and there for open hunting ground for the wolf spiders. Woody plants and bunch grasses make great homes for funnel spiders.  All spiders play a valuable role in your gardens’ ecosystem and should not be eradicated.  Do not feel bad if you accidentally destroy a spider’s web. They will quickly move on and begin building a new one.  Predators like spiders are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, and acknowledging the pest control services they provide is a great way to start to appreciate them as garden collaborators rather than something to be feared.


Bumblebee ID & Survey Activity & PDF

Bumblebee ID & Survey PDF:

Welcome!  We are glad you are here to read about the SE Bumblebee Survey Activity!  Why should you do this?  There are a lot of reasons, we can give you three quick reasons right here:  

1.) Bumblebees and other pollinators are important.  Pollinators put all of our fruit and vegetables on the dinner table. Humans still rely on pollinators for 30% of our diet: green beans, squash, oranges, strawberries, chocolate, and coffee, the list of foods goes on and on.  Although, during daily life checking on smartphones, we may think we are “apart from” “nature,” the opposite is true: we are still very dependent upon natural systems.  Can’t eat without nature!

2.) Science is fun, and Citizens Science projects are educational! Learning and recording your observations about the plants and nature in your park or garden, is rewarding; you will learn new details about your local ecosystem.  Uploading your observations and pictures to a Citizen Science website run by scientists is exciting; you are helping scientific experts with your information.  Your carefully collected observations added to all of the other observations from other citizens helps research science move forward.  How great can learning get when you are going outside to hang out and observe pollinators on some flowers?           

3.) Why are we counting and identifying the bees? We still need pollinators to help us make our food, but insect populations, and especially worrying, pollinator populations, are declining across the world. If there is an area with good pollinator and bee populations, we all need to know about it!  If a bee population is in decline or missing, all of us need to know about it! It’s all about the Strawberries! Chocolate! Zucchini!

About this pdf: The first page of this pdf provides an inexpensive and easy to carry  schematic ID that highlights several of the key characteristics for seven of the Southeast’s most common bumblebees.  The second page of this pdf has general information about the likely habitats of these bees, their preferred nest locations and floral foraging preferences. The third page has a data entry form to help you collect and organize your observations.

Bombus bimaculatus on Scutellaria spp. at Beech Hollow Farm.

How to use this Bumblebee ID Card:

Print out an ID card, with the information page on the back, a data collection card, and read the data collection instructions.

Select one method of data collection that you will follow.  For the 5 minute sitting observations the observer will sit at one cluster of flowers for 5 minutes, count bee visits to each flower in their chosen cluster.  If the observer can take pictures of the bees, those provide important information that can be verified at a few sites.

The 15 minute walking observation is more complex, and requires more set up time.  The observer should measure 100 feet of transect (a straight predetermined path through the landscape) next to or in a bee pasture or garden.  The measured transect should be flagged both at the beginning and end of 100 feet, and participants would time their walk to go from one end of the transect to the other within 15 minutes.  Very detailed directions for a 15 minute walking observation are available at bumblebeewatch.org.  If you do not have 100 continuous feet of transect along a bee meadow or garden, there are organized ways to break up the transects that are described at the bumblebeewatch website.

The following three websites have experts who will ID clear photographs of bees that are submitted to them:  The site Bug Guide will verify insect and bee ID in clear pictures. The Great Sunflower Project allows an observer to upload up to 3 pictures of each bee, to increase accuracy of bee identification. Clear photos of the bees also provide important information for Bumblebee Watch.  The additional information about the flower being visited, the location, time, temperature, and date, is also important. Information from five minute sitting observations may be uploaded at The Great Sunflower Project.  Information from 15 minute walking observations may be uploaded at Bumblebee Watch.

Here is the form to download the free SE Bumblebee Survey pdf:

SE Bumblebee Survey Form

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Information Deep Dive: 

For those of you who are curious about some of the reasons behind the decline, here is some more information and source material:

Some reasons for pollinator decline:

Climate Change: An increase in global temperatures by 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100 CE  will affect 49% of insect species with a projected 50% reduction in their habitat or range. (Article/source: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6390/714.full)

Loss of habitat due to farming/corporate agriculture/monoculture practices and other human activity/development.  (Article/source: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6296/288/tab-pdf )

The pesticide use by agribusiness in the EU and the USA has resulted in a massive die off of important ecological “actors” insects, pollinators and otherwise.  An article about bees and pesticides here: Neonicotinoids and bees

The effect of this is creeping upward into the larger species that are dependent upon them:  Insect populations in the EU have declined by 76%.  (Article/source:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185809&type=printable)

Other animals directly or indirectly affected by above factors:

Songbird populations in France have declined by 70% :  An article in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/21/catastrophe-as-frances-bird-population-collapses-due-to-pesticides)  

Even aquatic systems are not immune to the effects of our introduced chemical compounds.  Aquatic insects and arthropods are being affected by neonicotinoid compounds leaching into surface waters (a broadly used class of pesticide associated with many problems in global insect decline.)  http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/XercesCAAquaticNeonics_Dec2016_Final.pdf

Why worry about terrestrial and aquatic insects and arthropods?  Those organisms provide food to freshwater fish as well as many birds.  We humans also eat fish. Many river systems drain into the oceans. Who knows if the compounds will survive in the complex chemistry of ocean water?  I hope they don’t.  Point being:  we as humans are all a part of this.  The bottom of the food web supports the organisms at the top.  We are at the top, and there will be no foundation to support us.  Pollinators go away, veggies and fruits go away.


National Pollinator Week in Beecatur!

We are thrilled to have been invited to participate in BEEcatur for National Pollinator Week:

June 21: The Bee-autiful Bee Business: Storytelling & Puppetmaking 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Sylvia Cross, Art Instigator and Sycamore Place Gallery Owner, will host a bevy of bee-autiful puppet makers at Sycamore Place Gallery on June 21 at 5:30pm.

Sylvia is a Decatur fixture known for her Art/poetry/Musical collaborations with the children of Young Audiences at Woodruff Arts Center and with a variety of performers in the tree houses of Costa Rica to the nature made galleries and Adult Storytellings at Java Monkey and in her own studio.

She is excited to be part of the artist Pandra Williams’ Bee Business Project and invite the youth of the city to join us in the festive puppet making and spectacular story performance that should heat up this summer’s educational celebration of bee -n- bug life! FREE

For more information visit : http://www.beechhollowfarms.com
Email: info@beechhollowfarms.co

June 21: The Buzz About Native Bees, 7:30 pm – 9 pm,

It’s a bug! It’s a fly! No, it’s a Native Bee! Georgia has more than 400 species of native bees. Unlike honeybees, the coloring of our native bees ranges from metallic blues and greens to the classic yellow and black of the bumblebee. Native bee sizes range from the dainty 3/16 of an inch of the
masked bees to the lumbering one-plus inch of a carpenter bee. How do you tell the difference between these native bees and bugs? We can show you! Pandra Williams, of Beech Hollow Wildflower Farm, will talk about the nesting, forage and habitat needs of these tiny animals who are so important to making a good tomato, blueberries, broccoli…almost all of our fruit and veggies!    FREE
Email: info@beechhollowfarms.com
 

 

Special prices on pollinator support plants
We will have Bee Trays and Pollinator 6 packs for sale.
 For more information Email: info@beechhollowfarms.com

June 21- July 5: Pollinator Portraits: Pollinator Photography Exhibition

 “Pollinator Portraits: Pollinator Photography Exhibition” Photographs by Jeff Killingsworth, Michael Williams and Pandra Williams.  A selection of images from six years of pollinator photos from Beech Hollow Wildflower Farm, Lexington, GA. Part of “Bee At Home In Decatur,” Beecatur’s city-wide celebration of National Pollinator Week 2018! FREE
For more information Email: info@beechhollowfarms.com

Sycamore Place Gallery is located at 120 Sycamore Pl, Decatur, GA 30030 

 


The Pollinators That Don’t Consume Pollen

By Jeff Killingsworth

Bees are most often associated with the word ‘pollinator’ and rightfully so: they gather pollen and nectar from flowers to feed themselves and their larvae. In the process of gathering their food, they cross-pollinate the flowers that give us many of our favorite foods. The 20,000+ species of bees on this planet come in all shapes and sizes, but nearly all of them subsist on pollen with a side of nectar. It’s a direct relationship with flowers that benefits both parties.

There is a another large group of insects known as Lepidopterans, the collective term for butterflies and moths, that also cross pollinate flowers, but not because they are collecting pollen to eat, and they certainly don’t feed it to their larvae. Their young consume a number of other plant parts, most often the leaves, to grow into adults. Their young are caterpillars, and they are not pollinators. Only adult lepidopterans are pollinators, but not all adults are.

Many butterflies and moths lack the mouth parts and/or digestive tracts to consume nectar from flowers. Their only task is to find a mate and produce fertilized eggs before they expend the energy they consumed as caterpillars. The adults that do visit flowers do so to sip nectar through a long, straw-like mouth known as a proboscis. It is often wound in a tight coil at the tip of the head and can unwind to reach the very bottom of tubular flowers where the nectar is secreted. In the process of sipping nectar, the adult is dusted with pollen, either by direct contact with the anthers or by the air currents from its wing beats causing pollen to release from the flower.

This happy accident of lepidopterans transferring pollen as they sip nectar has another happy accident embedded into in that some species of butterflies and moths are migratory. They move seasonally over distances much larger than the small area around a hive where bees forage. Sipping nectar powers the migratory flight, and the pollen gets to hitch a ride with all of its genetic information to far away plants. Long distance gene transfer helps plants spread useful adaptations through their population and enhances biodiversity which makes for plants that are more resilient to pests, pathogens and extreme weather.   For the price of some sugary liquid (and maybe a few leaves for caterpillars) a plant can spread its genes far and wide with the help of the delicate, fluttering pollinators that don’t eat pollen: The Lepidopterans.

 

 


Leaf Buds: Natural Origami

This is a companion piece of sorts to my last post about leaf buds (‘Buds are Swell‘), but this is a more personal tale of a particular bud. 

It all started in January when I planted a Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) in my backyard after reclaiming an area from the abundant English Ivy that the previous owner left me.  In it’s dormant state the young tree looked like a bare branch with a pointed end sticking out of the soil.  That pointed end was a bud.

Covered in insulating hairs, the bud rode out a few snowfalls and numerous freezes until the temperatures began to rise.  Temperature dependent reactions started occurring inside the bud and it began to swell.  Cells differentiated and divided to become the specialized structures that make up a leaf.  Eventually the finite space inside the swelling bud ran out and it split open to unfold and unfurl the leaves that had formed within.

  In this particular case, those leaves that started in that tiny 2″ long bud can easily become 24″ long and 10″ wide.  Sadly, these leaves were denied that chance.  Some (literal) rat bastard chewed them right off the stem a few days after the above photo was taken.

I found it on the ground near the base of the stem.  He didn’t even eat it, probably because the leaves were too fuzzy.

        After I got over my shock and anger I decided that the least I could do is study the remains and hopefully learn something from it.  I discovered an incredibly complex arrangement of multiple leaves folded and rolled around each other inside that relatively tiny bud.  

The repeating pattern of: sheath, leaf, fold and enclose a sheath, leaf, fold and enclose…… led me to unfold and arrange 7 separate leaves for the above photo.  Even that tiniest leaf at the top is folded around an even tinier sheath that I would have needed a scalpel and tweezers to open, but I’ll bet that wasn’t even the last one in the sequence.  Thinking about how those all formed in three dimensions inside of that bud was pretty mind boggling.  ‘Natural Origami’ was my first thought and I haven’t come up with anything better.

Fortunately the tree was left with one leaf to try to feed itself.  Even if it hadn’t been left with that leaf, it had other back up plans.  As I said in my previous post about buds, they start out as just a few hundred cells, so it’s not really a big energy investment until they need to swell up into actual leaves.  Almost all plants have multiple buds somewhere other than the apical bud at the tip.  Depending on where they are located on the plant they can be called axillary or adventitious buds.  They are the multiple redundancy backup plan that springs into action when something destroys the plant’s new growth.  

As such, this axillary bud (just take a second and realize that this bud was formed at the base of this leaf inside the big bud and that each of those 7+ lost leaves had a potential bud at their base too!) and several adventitious buds that you can see below it were activated by hormones to start the dividing and swelling process all over again. 

After a few weeks of swelling, they opened to reveal a few new leafy tops for this tree.  You can see the now much larger and slightly tattered single leaf that remained on the left side of the frame.  This whole process was a setback for sure, and this tree will not put on as much new height this year as it could have, but thanks to the latent buds it is still alive and green. It was also a reminder to me that if I pause and study a plant closely I always learn something new.  

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” – Henry David Thoreau (Oct. 22, 1839)

 

 

 


Welcome to the Art Barn

Welcome to the Art Barn!  This is Beech Hollow’s new building to host our guests for educational talks, workshops and hands on garden crafts.  The Art Barn will also host shows of nature photography and other environmental or nature based artworks.

Images from our Spring Fling:

 

 

 

 

 

Build a Bug Rod puppets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo show of Virginia Linch’s pollinator pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Rustic Lattice:

 

 

 

 

 

Not to mention more styling face (or hand) paint:

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Greco and the Gardening for Wildlife Workshop:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why does Beech Hollow have an Art Barn?

Because a picture or an activity is worth a thousand words…

and learning about pollinators is a lot of fun.


Who needs fireworks? Native Azaleas and Tiger Swallowtails

Have you been to a wild azalea grove?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year there are a couple of azalea groves I love to visit in early spring. One is in the Boat Rock preserve in South Fulton County, and another is in the back acreage of our forest at Beech Hollow. And every year the groves are fireworks of flowers and Tiger Swallowtails.

The Tiger Swallowtails always seem to be one of the first butterflies to be up and out in the cool of early spring, and the azaleas are one of the few nectar sources available at the very beginning of spring. It is truly delightful to sit and watch the yellow winged males and the blue-black winged females delicately sip nectar all the while fanning their wings, slowly working their way across the azalea grove in loopy arcs.  There are plenty of native bees visiting the flowers as well; they flit past the arched stamens and pistil to burrow down into the corolla and access the nectar.  Those stamens and the pistil don’t come close to brushing the bees as they pass.

Here’s the thing: How would the bees pollinate the azaleas? The anthers and pistils flare out, well away from the nectar. Bees that access nectar alone won’t necessarily make contact with the stamens or pistil. In 2015, Mary Jane Epps, Suzanne E Allison, and Lorne M Wolfe published a paper about wing pollination by tiger swallowtails of Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) in the Blue Ridge. Very cool! Could our Piedmont Azaleas be pollinated in the same way?

Last spring, Jessi and I decided to take a look for ourselves in our grove of Piedmont Azalea (Rhododendron canescens) up by the boulders in the back of Beech Hollow. While we sat, a male Tiger Swallowtail was on patrol at the grove, waiting for a female. He looped around the grove, from flower to flower, fanning his wings as he nectared. He was such a pale yellow that it was hard to tell if he had gathered any pollen on his wings. Then a female swallowtail came by, and:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above, on the left, female Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) with her wings brushing the anthers of Piedmont Azalea.  On the right, several minutes later,  the same female with pollen visible on her wings.

This is an observation, not a scientific study. But it does appear that the same type of wing pollination that was recorded by scientific study in Flame Azaleas may also be occurring in Piedmont Azaleas.

That same spring at Boat Rock Preserve in Southwest Fulton County my husband Michael Williams was taking photos in the Piedmont Azaleas and caught this critter, a Hummingbird Clearwing moth, (possibly Hemaris thysbe) hard at work in the  azalea flowers:

I wonder if this species is also capable of wing pollination?

Here is the citation for the 2015 article on wing pollination:

Epps, Mary Jane, Allison Suzanne E., and Wolfe, Lorne M. Reproduction in Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum, Ericaceae): A Rare Case of Insect Wing Pollination. The American Naturalist, vol 186, No. 2. August 2015.

 


The Monarchs are Coming

March 17: Spring has warmed the mountains of Michoacán in the State of Mexico.  As I write this, the noon temperature in that alpine forest is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. The monarch butterflies that have been hibernating in tall fir trees have started leaving their mountain roosts to voyage north on their yearly migration in search of milkweed host plants for their young.  By the end of March, all of them will have left Mexico to journey north.
 
As early as this January and February, Monarchs have already been sighted on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and throughout much of Florida.  They will be in the Georgia Piedmont soon, and as you read this, fragile orange wings are flapping and fluttering against air currents to make their way here. By the time the Monarchs have reached Beech Hollow in late March and early April, the journey will have been roughly 1500 miles.

Why do they migrate?  The timing of the butterflies’ northward migration follows the seasonal availability of the larval host plants that monarchs need to feed their young.  They will migrate only as far north as the milkweed grows.  However the timing of the southward migration has the insects traveling well ahead of cold winter temperatures that they cannot survive.  And as they travel south during the late summer through the fall, there are still plenty of nectar plants for them to forage on to fuel their journey to the alpine forests in Mexico.  How’s that for travel planning? From the summer range in southern Canada to Mexico’s alpine forests, the total journey averages 2500 miles.

Rough timing of Monarch migration stops: When the female Monarch arrives in the southern United States between February through April, she will lay her eggs, and only upon Milkweed plants. Her caterpillars feed on the Milkweed, grow, pupate, and hatch. It takes anywhere from 4-7 weeks for the second generation of butterflies to mature enough to take up this generational relay. 
 
This second generation of new Monarchs flies into the northern United States and Southern Canada in late spring.  When the butterflies arrive, the females lay the eggs of generation number three on Milkweed plants.

In August and September, Monarch generations three and four will start flying southward, retracing their flights back to the mountains in Michoacán and the State of Mexico.  When the butterflies arrive, they overwinter in large fir trees and wait for the return of spring.

Habitat needs:  A garden with native plants which provide nectar for the adult butterflies is important.  Even MORE important for Monarch butterflies is the availability of their larval host plant: Milkweed. Supporting their full life cycle by providing host plants for their caterpillars will ensure the return of these intriguing insects year after year.  Milkweed species that are recommended by the GPCA (Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance) and native to the state of Georgia are: 

  • Clasping Leaf milkweed, Asclepias amplexicaulis
  • Poke Milkweed, Asclepias exaltata
  • Pink Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
  • Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa
  • and Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata

Please Provide Water, everyone needs clean water, even insects.  A ceramic plant saucer with large pebbles or a sand ramp in it will allow butterflies to approach the water without being drowned.
 
Minimize use of toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, which can sicken or kill unintended, or “non-target,” wildlife.  If you must use a pesticide, be aware of your larval host plants and other pollinators, apply pesticides carefully to avoid destroying your beneficial insects.

Websites with additional information:

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/migration/index.shtml

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/monarch.html

https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/biology/index.shtml#migrgen

Annual generational lifecycle:

https://monarchlab.org/biology-and-research/biology-and-natural-history/breeding-life-cycle/annual-life-cycle/

Western Monarch Information:

https://www.westernmonarchcount.org/about/

 

 

 

 


Buds are Swell

Hearts a Bustin’ (Euonymous americanus) stem with numerous buds at the tip.

Deciduous woody plants have adapted to survive in the temperate regions of the world by dropping their leaves for the duration of the cold winter months.  Freezing temperatures and low light conditions aren’t conducive to photosynthesis, so trying to maintain leaves through the winter doesn’t make much sense and would probably result in a net loss of energy.  Once the temperatures do start to creep back up new growth has to begin somewhere, and that somewhere is in the buds.

Buds on a young White Oak (Quercus alba) sapling. Note the half moon shaped leaf scar just below the buds where last year’s leaf detached.

Buds are compact, often tiny, structures that are the first step toward a new leaf, branch or flower.  Where the bud is located on the plant largely determines what it will become.  Terminal, or apical, buds are at the tip of the stem.  They are usually the first to break dormancy and often impede all of the other buds on a branch or stem from sprouting until they do.  Lateral buds are farther down the stem, and axillary buds form at the joint between a branch and the main stem or trunk.

Big Leaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) bud covered in fine hairs to insulate against freezing temperatures. Big leaf, big bud

Many buds have evolved structures to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures called bud scales.  They are overlapping plate-like structures that contain a waxy substance for insulation. Others, like the Magnolia pictured above have hairs that act like animals’ fur to insulate the delicate parts inside.  Those delicate parts are cells akin to stem cells in animal embryos called ‘primordia.’  There can be as few as a couple hundred cells in a bud to start out, but as the temperatures rise and the days get longer, the cells begin to divide and differentiate into the specialized leaf parts they will ultimately become.  The first outer sign of this process beginning is when the buds swell in late winter, AKA right now in most of Georgia.  This all comes back to you, the gardener, in the fact that as the buds are swelling they need nutrients to grow!  Trees and shrubs (especially young ones) should be fertilized right as the buds begin to swell so that they have all the vital elements to make those tiny soon-to-be-leaf structures.

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) leaves unfurling from a newly opened bud.

Keep an eye on the buds of your woody plants over the next few weeks and you will see Spring getting ready to spring!

Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) bud just starting to break open