Budburst. The word should evoke a sense of the near-literal eruption of leaves and flowers that have been tightly packed into each and every bud for the last seven or eight months at the Arnold Arboretum. Temperate woody plants make (“preform”) most or all of their leaves and flowers in mid to late summer of the previous year. Hence, when buds break open, the process of growing from microscopic to mature size is exceedingly fast―no need to “make” anything, just expand like crazy.

Now is the time to be awestruck by just how many leaves and flowers have been patiently waiting for spring. I am focusing on three maples today (aside: the Arnold Arboretum has an extraordinary collection of over 60 maple species!), but whatever you do, DO NOT MISS budburst on the American and European beeches in the next week or so; same goes for the Arboretum’s outstanding hickories.

Pictured below is Acer palmatum (Japanese maple; 3901*A; accessioned in 1898) with brilliant red bud scales curled back, two shoots with terminal inflorescences of yet-to-open flowers (the red balls), and rapidly expanding leaves. Lower left is Acer platanoides (Norway maple; 427-39*B) with what must be twenty or more flowers erupting from a bud. Lower right is Acer diabolicum (devil or horned maple; 630-77*A) with beautiful crimson flowers. The pairs of yellow squiggles coming out of some of the flowers are the stigmas that will receive pollen.