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Look Out for Trees in Cincinnati Parks

french park in march with bare trees along a trail and a small creek filled with rocks

Look Out for Trees in Cincinnati Parks

Cincinnati Parks are home to dozens of different tree species. Many of us seek shade under their leaves, watch the leaves grow, and revel in their many diverse shapes. In Fall, we enjoy the fall color as those leaves change in October and November to hues ranging from yellow, to orange, to red, even blue.

Trees are at least as enjoyable to look at in the late winter and early spring. You just need to look a little closer…

This time of year in a deciduous forest, before they grow their new set of leaves, is a time of unseen but very intense activity for trees.

Back in February, on the days where we had below freezing temperatures in the night and higher temperatures in the day, the sap in many bare trees started to move throughout the tree. In maple trees, this “sap run” gives us the sweet sap that we boil down to make maple syrup.

Long before we see outward signs of growth, a tree is busily moving sap around from the roots and lower trunk up to the tips of the living branches, to the buds. Within those buds, the flowers and first leaves are starting to grow. This saved, concentrated sweet sap is providing the nutrition needed for the very first growth, before the leaves come out to start photosynthesis anew.

Maples, oaks, elms, cottonwoods and many other deciduous trees send out small, wind pollinated flowers before the leaves form.  These flowers use the sap moving throughout the tree to make and send out pollen and begin to form seeds as the first leaves begin to form and emerge right behind them.

How can you experience this seemingly unseen phenomenon for yourself? Get close to a tree. Look up. If you can reach a branch, trace that branch to the tip and look at the buds. On many trees, the buds have already broken, revealing the small, wind pollinated flowers.

If you have binoculars, use them to look further up the trees. This time of year, trees often look “fuzzy” from the ground. Train your binoculars on the branch tips, and you will see why. You can see the flowers; and soon, the new leaves growing!

If you have a stethoscope, take it outside. Maples are done with their sap run, but other trees are timed slightly differently. Go see if you can hear the sap pulsing through the tree. It’s an eerie but amazing sound. If we have an overnight frost, go ahead and give a maple tree a try the next day too, just for fun.

Where should you go to see and possibly hear the trees waking up? Literally ANY Cincinnati park. Just please stay on the trail.