Virtual Museum of Canada
Jardin botanique de Montréal 
Centre for Forest Research

Who am I?

How can you identify a tree? Many, like a maple, are easily recognizable by their leaves. These clues disappear in winter, though. A birch tree's characteristic white bark is unmistakable, but what about other species? Fortunately, the buds, while less spectacular, are there year round to provide us with the answer.

Buds can be round, scaly, hairy; lateral, clustered or terminal. When you know what you’re looking for, there are all sorts of clues pointing to the identity of a modest little bud. For example, a linden has round buds, while those of a poplar are more pointed. And if you come across a sulphur-yellow bud, you can be sure it belongs to a bitternut hickory: no other bud in Canada is the same colour.

Photomontage of the round bud of an American linden (Tilia americana) and the pointed buds of an Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
1. Tilia americana / 2. Populus deltoides
© Jardin botanique de Montréal (Lise Servant)