By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
You don’t have to be a botanist to want to know the basic parts of plants and their purpose. Leaves photosynthesize, flowers produce fruit, roots uptake moisture, but what is a bud? Buds on plants are precursors to new growth of some kind. Read on for more information on flower bud vs. leaf bud in the garden.
Most of us have noted them. Those subtle swellings on plants in early spring. These are buds on plants and are the harbinger of things to come in the growing season. Both herbaceous and woody plants produce buds, either as they produce new leaves or as part of the blooming process. There are several types of buds, delineated by their location, but all will eventually burst forth and become new plant material.
Buds on plants are an early indicator of new growth of some sort. While it may be difficult to discern whether the new growth is a flower or a leaf, identifying flower buds can generally be done by noting their location. Flower buds are not usually on the stem or limb of a plant, although there are some cases in which they are.
Most flower buds will be found at terminal ends or on flowering stalks, making it easier to identify them. These would be terminal buds, while those between the leaf and stem are called axillary buds.
Adventitious buds are those that form as a result of injury. Many buds require a period of cold exposure in order to force them to develop. This is also a rest period during which they are fairly tolerant of cold. Once the bud is awakened by warm weather, it is at risk from late freezes.
In woody plants, the buds have a protective, leathery scale-like surface. Annuals and herbaceous perennials develop naked buds which are much more susceptible to weather influences and damage. This can help you with identifying flower buds. They will be soft and malleable as opposed to those on a conifer.
Interestingly, a flower bud is actually a modified leaf. Some flower buds may be fruit buds as the flower will result in a fruit. Mixed buds contain both the immature leaf structure and flower parts. Leaf buds are often more plump and pointed than flower buds.
No matter the type of bud, as soon as they have released dormancy, they have the capacity to sprout and develop as soon as the temperature is correct for that type of plant.
Buds are made from meristem tissue. This is the part of a plant containing undifferentiated cells. Bud cells are ready for rapid cell division, the action which fuels growth and the development of different plant structures.
Most buds form at the end of summer or in fall. They remain small and close to the plant with a protective covering. In spring when sap begins to flow, the bud begins to swell noticeably. It is much like a cocoon where a new form emerges after a period of time.
Some interesting plant bud information is regarding edible buds. Cabbage and head lettuce are enlarged terminal buds. The axillary buds are the edible part of Brussels sprouts. Broccoli, cauliflower, and artichoke plants are other examples of edible buds.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Gardening Tips & Information
An embryonic shoot containing the growing stem tip surrounded by young leaves or flowers or both, and the whole frequently enclosed by special protective leaves, the bud scales.
The bud at the apex of the stem is called a terminal bud (illus. a). Any bud that develops on the side of a stem is a lateral bud. The lateral bud borne in the axil (angle between base of leaf and stem) of a leaf is the axillary bud (illus. a and d). It develops concurrently with the leaf which subtends it, but usually such buds do not unfold and grow rapidly until the next season. Because of the inhibitory influence of the apical or other buds, many axillary buds never develop actively or may not do so for many years. These are known as latent or dormant buds. Above or beside the axillary buds, some plants regularly produce additional buds called accessory, or supernumerary, buds. Accessory buds which occur above the axillary bud are called superposed buds (illus. c), and those beside it collateral buds (illus. d). Under certain conditions, such as removal of terminal and axillary buds, other buds may arise at almost any point on the stem, or even on roots or leaves. Such buds are known as adventitious buds. See Plant growth
Buds that give rise to flowers only are termed flower buds, or in some cases, fruit buds. If a bud grows into a leafy shoot, it is called a leaf bud, or more accurately, a branch bud. A bud which contains both young leaves and flowers is called a mixed bud.
Buds of herbaceous plants and of some woody plants are covered by rudimentary foliage leaves only. Such buds are called naked buds. In most woody plants, however, the buds are covered with modified protective leaves in the form of scales. These buds are called scaly buds or winter buds. In the different species of plants, the bud scales differ markedly. They may be covered with hairs or with water-repellent secretions of resin, gum, or wax. Ordinarily when a bud opens, the scales fall off, leaving characteristic markings on the stem (bud scale scars). See Leaf
in plants, the rudiment of a shoot. A foliage bud consists of rudiments of leaves of various ages and a short rudimentary axis (stem) with an apical cone. The leaves are densely arranged on the axis, covering the axis and each other. A mixed bud has both leaves and the primordia of inflorescences and flowers. Some floral buds include the primordia of only one flower. Leaves arise regularly on the apical cone of the stem from bottom to top. At first they grow unevenly, mainly on their underside they finally arch over the shoot apex, leading to the formation of a closed bud. Such a structure has adaptive significance. The outer leaf organs protect the inner meristem from desiccation and injury. They also create within the bud a dark, moist chamber favorable to the formation of the leaf primordia and to the further growth of the stem. When the bud unfolds as a result of uneven growth, mainly on the upperside of the stem, the leaves bend away from the stem and separate owing to the growth of the stem internodes, which are almost nonexistent in the bud.
Apical, or terminal, buds allow the shoot to grow in length lateral buds ensure branching and formation of the shoot system. In most seed plants, the lateral buds are borne in the axil and are called axillary buds. They arise as external meristematic tubercles in the axils of the leaf primordia during the early developmental stages of the parent shoot, which is often still inside the maternal bud. Nutrients and protection are provided to the bud by the bract in whose axil the parent bud is borne. Usually only one bud is formed in the axil, although in some plants there are accessory, or supernumerary, buds that rest one on top of the other (superposed buds, as in honeysuckle) or side by side in a row (collateral buds, as in garlic). Adventitious buds develop endogenously, for example, in the interior tissue layers of the adult stem, root, and, sometimes, leaf. The buds of higher spore-bearing plants (mosses and ferns) are most often adventitious.
The outer leaves of a bud or their parts (stipules, base, petiole) are sometimes converted to bud scales that often have a special anatomical structure. They may have highly developed integumentary tissues or may be covered with numerous hairs. Some become corky or woody, and others secrete resin. Such buds, known as closed buds, are characteristic of most trees, shrubs, and perennial herbs of the frigid and temperate zones. They are also common in tropical and subtropical regions that have a dry season. When the bud opens, the scales usually fall. The internodes between them remain short, and closely placed groups of ringlike scars form on the stem. In trees and shrubs of the temperate zone, the annual growth and the age of branches can be determined by counting the rings. Open, or naked, buds predominate in trees of tropical rain forests. Such buds, which are scaleless, are also prevalent in the temperate zone on nonwintering and, sometimes, wintering herbaceous shoots (houseleek and Eloded). Open buds may be observed in temperate latitudes on the tips of young shoots of woody plants during the period of “open growth.” Wintering open buds are rarely encountered in such plants (alder buckthorn).
The arrangement of young leaves in the bud in relation to one another is called estivation. The arrangement may be valvate, imbricate, coiled, semicoiled, or amplectant. The type of foliation is determined by how or whether the blade of each leaf forms. It may be plicate, many times plicate, convolute, revolute, or involute. Estivation and foliation are hereditary features that are taken into account in plant taxonomy.
As a rule, the newly formed bud does not open in the shoot immediately but only after a definite number of leaf primordia have developed. In the winter or during droughts, mature buds often undergo a somewhat prolonged period of rest. Such buds, which yield shoots in the spring or at the onset of the rainy season, are called renewal buds. The entire shoot of the following year, including the inflorescence (lilac, elder, lily of the valley, asarum) or only a part of it (linden, goldenrod), may be formed in the autumn in wintering renewal buds in many trees and shrubs wintering buds include both foliage and floral buds (birch, apple, poplar).
The appearance of buds in the axils of all leaves is essential for the branching and renewal of plants. To ensure the continued growth of a tree or shrub, a substantial proportion of the buds do not open at the same time. Such buds are said to be dormant, and they preserve their viability for many years. The buds open when there is injury to higher parts of the trunk and branches. Suckers develop, often in the form of stool shoots. In shrubs the dormant buds regularly yield new trunks to replace the old ones. The ability of dormant buds to yield shoots is important in forming the crowns of ornamental and fruit trees and in growing hedges. Adventitious buds form aboveground shoots known as root suckers on the roots. The role of buds in vegetative propagation of plants is very great. In some plants, special brood buds, or bulbils, develop in the axils, in inflorescences, and even on leaves (Bryophyllum). They fall from the maternal plant, sprout, root, and yield a new individual.
In fruit raising, vegetative propagation by grafting involves a small piece of the stem with a dormant bud known as the eye. Buds on potato tubers are also called eyes.
This Wisteria was about three years old when I got it and I guess I have had it 2-3 years. I know time will give me my answer, but I am wondering if these are leaf buds or flower buds?? I don't remember it looking like this last year.
I just love how the buds look like little (or big) eggs. My wisteria has giant flowers like this one. Looks like you may have blue. Can't really tell. Congratulations!
Lucky you! Sure looks like a bud to me. Keep us posted!
Really. Really. LOL I keep expecting stems and leaves to pop out of there. Secretly inside I keep hoping it is flowers. It was a nice sized vine when it was mailed to me. I have a white one at one corner of my deck and this one at the other corner. Looking forward to a nice pergola covered in wisteria someday. :)
Badseed. they are called spurs on a Wisteria! Mine is full of them already! oodles of them! E.
Mine have bloomed and leafed out. Waiting for the lones in the shade to bloom also. Divided mine out last year and they all made it.
My wisteria is 2 and it was full of blooms and lots of new growth. I know that Calif is earlier than where you are, but you just wait and see all the growing power these wonderful plants have! I saw a white one at our nursery and just drooled over it. Maybe I gotta have one of those too! :-))
Badseed--yes those are buds--last year i bought 2 small wisteria trees that had buds on them and no leaves then the leaves came later and the blooms--i had to see one bloom--i have 3 wisteria vines that have not bloomed since the 4 years i have had them--but boy do the grow
Cottosnag, it can take up to seven years for a wisteria to bloom.
Yes, nice bloom buds. I lost my wisteria vine that was growing up the 4 x 4 post at south edge of my deck. I lost quite a few things last year from the hard freeze we had April 23, several trees that were just leafing out, all my soft fruit bloom, and other things. So far this year have escaped a severe freeze. Did get cold enough to kill all my apricot blooms on one tree, the other has a few tiny apricots that I hope will make it. I must send a picture of my wisteria bonsai. It is just ready to bloom. I took it to the bonsai talk i gave at Senior Center Wed. It has probably 50 bloom clusters. Hope it is fragrant too. Donna
Well, I don't have any great pictures to offer since I have yet to put in a proper post and/or pergola. But alas it blooms. :) Here are just a few.
My DS sent me some Wisteria seeds and they are sprouting :)
My question is will they produce any flowers or blooms this year? Or, is it a vine that will require some years before I can expect to harvest any seeds from it?
Also, what are the best conditions with regard to sunlight for these vines?
Thanks for starting this thread, Seed!
As far as I know, the general rule of thumb, expect to wait some seven years for blooms. :( I have heard laying or planting bananas can get them to bloom faster, also root pruning can encourage them. I have not done well with seed grown ones. This one was from a trade with a sweetie in GA.
Ah, yes, now that I read for "content" (LOL), I see where it can take 7 years
Your bloom is gorgeous, Badseed!
Donna, do you mean you lost the blooms on your wisteria with the freeze last year, or the whole vine?
DS sent me a teenie-tiny vine with some seeds & I was curious if I should wait longer before planting the vine outside. The seeds are germinating
My Wisteria is 9 years old,,bloomed a little last year for the first time. This year we had freaky weather in March. 80 degree days for about a week..and everything thought it was summer and began to grow, then in April we had a hard freeze,,a couple of times. Here it is the middle of May and I have no signs of life on my Wisteria. Every day I check it, and convince myself to give it a little more time. The stem isn't brittle, or breakable. What do you think guys. Have I lost my Wisteria?? I'm zone 5a.
Do you have any signs of leaves or buds or new stems? Mine seemed to leap to life overnight. It bloomed as soon as it leafed out. I would think you should give it more time, being that you are a zone cooler than me.
I will give it more time Bad. I can't bring myself to dig it up anyway. after 8 years I'm rather attached to it,,even if it has bloomed but once. I don't see any sign of anything on it at all. but I'll wait a little longer.
I just planted a root cutting off of a mature wysteria about three weeks ago. Just today did I notice a little itty bitty leaf set starting to pop out of the side of the small trunk. Give it some time, and please be patient -- it will come back! Wysteria is a very hard vine to kill.
P.S. A little Miracle Grow helped mine! Also note, that this cutting was potted over winter and kept outside at my dad's house in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
This message was edited Tuesday, Jun 3rd 10:39 PM
Well, I gave up on the vine and dug it, and it was indeed dead. I've replaced it with an Clematis Sweet Autumn. I don't think I'll try another Wisteria in my cold zone. It's too disappointing.
I am sorry MossRose. I think I got lucky with mine. They lay that mailed it to me, had it rolled up like a big wreath when she mailed it. I was shocked! I bet it was 8-10 feet long when I got it. The flowers have come and gone and now I have the tiniest little seed pods forming. LOL Off hand, I don't know how hardy they are but maybe you will try again. :)
The buds of many woody plants, especially in temperate or cold climates, are protected by a covering of modified leaves called scales which tightly enclose the more delicate parts of the bud. Many bud scales are covered by a gummy substance which serves as added protection. When the bud develops, the scales may enlarge somewhat but usually just drop off, leaving a series of horizontally-elongated scars on the surface of the growing stem. By means of these scars one can determine the age of any young branch, since each year's growth ends in the formation of a bud, the formation of which produces an additional group of bud scale scars. Continued growth of the branch causes these scars to be obliterated after a few years so that the total age of older branches cannot be determined by this means.
In many plants scales do not form over the bud, and the bud is then called a naked bud.  The minute underdeveloped leaves in such buds are often excessively hairy. Naked buds are found in some shrubs, like some species of the Sumac and Viburnums (Viburnum alnifolium and V. lantana)  and in herbaceous plants. In many of the latter, buds are even more reduced, often consisting of undifferentiated masses of cells in the axils of leaves. A terminal bud occurs on the end of a stem and lateral buds are found on the side. A head of cabbage (see Brassica) is an exceptionally large terminal bud, while Brussels sprouts are large lateral buds.
Since buds are formed in the axils of leaves, their distribution on the stem is the same as that of leaves. There are alternate, opposite, and whorled buds, as well as the terminal bud at the tip of the stem. In many plants buds appear in unexpected places: these are known as adventitious buds. 
Often it is possible to find a bud in a remarkable series of gradations of bud scales. In the buckeye, for example, one may see a complete gradation from the small brown outer scale through larger scales which on unfolding become somewhat green to the inner scales of the bud, which are remarkably leaf-like. Such a series suggests that the scales of the bud are in truth leaves, modified to protect the more delicate parts of the plant during unfavorable periods.
Buds are often useful in the identification of plants, especially for woody plants in winter when leaves have fallen.  Buds may be classified and described according to different criteria: location, status, morphology, and function.
Botanists commonly use the following terms: