Lower Grammar Science
This Week’s Patterns of Nature Focus: Buds
Beech Buds Time Lapse Video
Birch Buds Time Lapse Video
How Do Trees Know When It’s Spring
Plant Profile: Pussy Willows
The pussy willows (Salix discolour) are one of the first signs of spring. You can find them in wet areas and those with a southern exposure will most likely have the first pussies. The catkin, or flower, will be either male or female, each on a different tree.
On your nature walk this week, try to find pussy willows that are just starting to bud. Check back every day to watch the progression, or take some cuttings home. If you allow them to fully bloom you can look closely to see if you have male or female flowers. The male flowers produce pollen which comes off as yellow dust. This site shows a picture of the male and female flower which you will find at the base of the catkin.
Pussy Willow Anatomy
Most cut pussy willow stems are in a sort of time warp—dried at their peak fuzziness, and never allowed to fully flower. But if you keep fresh-cut pussy willows hydrated, you can see the whole flowering cycle and even the leafing-out process. Buy a healthy-looking bunch (look for flexible, greenish stems that don’t feel brittle or look shriveled), and place in a vase near a window, changing the water daily. You can add a little flower food if you have some.
Watch for new flower buds to cast off the shiny brown bud scales that surround the flower. When the flowers mature, you will see scores of yellow stamens emerge to cover each catkin. A tiny clump of pollen stands at each end. Wait even longer, and you may also see pale green, strappy leaves unfurl from the leaf buds. At this point, your willow stems will be in full spring growth and will need to be planted in soil outdoors to root for an extended experiment. The flexible stems can also be woven into a wreath or recycled in the compost pile.
Here’s a video tutorial on drawing pussy willows. This will be too advanced for most of our lower grammar students, however, modelling nature journaling for your students is so beneficial. They will see you sketching and/or painting and want to give it a try themselves.
Sketching Pussy Willows Video Tutorial
This Week’s Exploring Nature with Children Focus: Wildflowers