As part of the newly designed Handbook of Nature Study September 2015 newsletter suggestions, I have been on the look out for an opportunity to take some photos of a tree and its parts. I have an especially photogenic tree in my front yard and as I was sitting on the wall just taking in its splendor, I happened to notice a perfect monarch butterfly enjoying my butterfly bushes.
In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.
~ Aaron Rose
This set the mood for a terribly enjoyable photo session as he flew from limb to limb. I also managed to spot a Common buckeye butterfly but failed to get a decent image to share. I am still hoping to see one again and be able to share it with you in a future post.
Well, one to the main subject of the nature photo assignment….my tulip poplar tree. I decided to just let the images speak for themselves so enjoy!
We have been observing the tulip tree very closely and I shared the blossoms a few weeks ago when we had the complete tree covered in blooms. Now it is mostly big yellow-green leaves that provide abundant shade on the front of our house.
There is a mockingbird that frequents the tree early in the morning to sing us a song. It is a nice way to wake up, with the leaves silhouetted on the window blinds and the sound of bird song in the air.
My son noticed that the bark has some moss on it still even in the heat. There were ants on the trunk as well. There were no bees visible, but we know when the tree is blooming it is alive with bees.
Here are our nature journals which this time we decided to use photos instead of drawing. It makes a quick and easy journal that looks really nice.
I opted to add a photo to my nature journal from last month when the tree was blooming.
My son’s journal has a photo of the tree as well. He made a list of his observations and then added a photo to make a very easy nature journal entry.
This entry completes our full circle for the year:
It hardly seems possible that we have gone all through the seasons with our tree already. This is such a great way to learn more about what is right in our own yard. We have started to think about what tree we will observe next….oh the possibilities!
Our tulip tree is blooming like crazy! I have never seen so many blossoms on this tree and the bees have noticed too. The buzzing starts as soon as the sun rises and continues most of the day.
Wouldn’t you want to buzz around this blossom and collect some pollen too? The colors and patterns are very impressive if you take the time to observe them up close. You can see clearly the inner part that will become the helicopter seeds in the fall right there in the middle of the blossom.
You can see how the sepals bend back and expose the flowers. The design of this flower truly shows the finger of our Grand Creator.
Here is a view of the tree with all the flowers….it is amazing the difference between the seasons in this tree.
Our next update will be with the Summer Series of Challenges.
We were able to get out and enjoy our spring temperatures this afternoon, completing a tree study of our Tulip tree as part of our on-going year-long tree study for the Outdoor Hour Challenge.
Leaves are showing on many of the branches but there is still lots of growing that needs to happen.
The seeds from last fall are still visible on many of the branches. Hard to believe it still has that many.
We did not see any insects or birds this afternoon but this tree is a favorite of our early morning robin, the Western scrub jays, and the white-breasted nuthatch. We see them in this tree daily now.
The leaves were all very small but we did compare a few and they are the same shape.
There are lots of changes in the leaves and colors since the fall and winter. The shape of the tree is different as well because all of our freak winter snow broke off many of the branches in this tree…a few ending up on the roof of our house.
We discovered that we will not be able to use the activity on page 626 to measure the height of our tree. The tree’s shadow lands squarely on the roof of our house in the morning. I am going to ask my husband if he can help us figure out how to accomplish the task.
We came back inside with one of the leaves and my son and I both sketched it into our nature journals.
His is very simple while I took a little more time and played with my watercolor pencils and my Prismacolor pens.
We found this interesting website on our tree: Yellow poplar or Tulip Tree. This tree is not native to California, but many choose it to grow as a shade tree. We like the shade as well as the leaf shape and the flowers later in the spring.
It is not too late to get outdoors and start observing a tree. You can even start this season and continue over the next year. The best way to observe your tree is to go outside and quietly sit and look at your tree. You may be surprised and see some visitors as you sit. I am anxious to see how your family’s tree has changed since the last time you reported in.
We completed our Winter Tree Study a few days ago before all the rains started. Last fall we chose our Tulip tree or Tulip Poplar to observe in every season for the next year. It is the tallest tree in our front yard. It lost quite a few branches during our December snowstorm so it has a little different shape than it did back in October.
There are virtually no leaves left on the tree at this point.
The boys noted that there are still a million helicopter type seeds left on the tree.
The ground under the tree is covered in seeds. The boys are going to sketch some of the seeds into their nature journals.
Mr. A wanted me to note that he had to spend the better part of an afternoon last week cleaning out the rain gutters and downspouts and the bulk of the mess was from this tree with its helicopter seeds. They are just thin enough to sift through the screens over the rain gutter.
Here is a small cluster of the seeds on the ground under the tree. We noted they look like wooden flowers.
The most interesting part of our winter tree study is the moss and lichen growing on the trunk. It is really noticeable now that the tree is bare. We took a few minutes to observe the moss. Words like soft, fluffy, bright green, and spongy were used to describe the moss. It is most definitely more prominent in the winter and far greener than the fall.
Here is a link to our Fall Tree Study so we can compare the two seasons. What a difference! Now we will wait until spring to make our official study of the changes in this great tree in our yard.
As a sidenote…
Here is something that made me smile. Look at those bulbs peeking out of the ground already! I know that underneath the ground there are dozens and dozens of bulbs just waiting to pop out in flowers before long now.
Trees are such a part of our life and there are quite a few growing in our yard that delight us during the different seasons. In the past, we chose an oak and then the sweet gum tree to study for a complete year.
We talked it over and decided that our new year-long tree study as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenges will focus on a Tuliptree in our front yard. I was leaning more towards studying the Chinese pistache that is actually in our neighbor’s yard but so close to the fence line that it might as well be in our yard.
The boys campaigned for the Tulip tree and since the whole point is to get them enthusiastic about a tree, we will go with their choice. The photo above shows the top of the tuliptree and to the right of it is our magnolia. The tuliptree is much taller than any other tree in the front yard and gives us lots of shade in the summer.
We talked about the tree for a few minutes before we headed out the door to spend our Outdoor Hour Challenge time observing our new tree friend. We talked about how the robins like to sing from the top of the tree, how the seeds are like helicopters, and how tall the tree is growing. One son added that he likes the tree but it is one of the biggest producers of leaves and soon it will mean lots of raking and composting. I shared how I remembered the blossoms on the tree and the humming of the bees last spring. We already knew quite a bit about our tree so we were anxious to see if we could learn anything new.
We took photos of our Tulip tree and gathered a few leaves to put into the flower press. A journal entry was made so we can compare with our winter study.
Most of the leaves are shaped like this……
But there were some that were shaped like this……
We were wondering why the leaves on the same tree are shaped so differently…..any guesses?
Many of the leaves have fallen already and there are quite a few turning yellow-orange-brown as well.
This is the fruit that turns to the seeds….great helicopter seeds that fall by the thousands.
How about that bark? It has the fluffy green lichen and the flat bright orange lichen as well.
We actually had a squirrel friend spend some time in our tree this afternoon.
This was a great start to our new tree study and this tree will be easy to keep track of since I can see it from my bedroom window. I love watching the shadows of the branches and leaves on the blinds. It makes a great swishing sound in the summer when the breeze blows and during winter storms it has a sway and a creaking sound as it bends in the wind.
We will try to spend some time this week watching as the leaves start to really fall and before you know it, this tree will be bare. 🙂
We had a terrific windstorm last Friday night which is why there were so many fires here in California. I stood outside under the moon in the warm wind and just soaking it all in. I invited my family to join me and several came out and enjoyed the time just listening to the trees blowing and the leaves as they skittered across the deck. The wind chime was really serenading us and reminding us that the wind has a whole rhythm to itself. Wind music.
All that wind left our yards littered with leaves, small twigs, big branches, seeds, cones, and needles. The above photo shows just a snapshot of how many seeds came down out of the tulip tree. If you click on the photo you will see how the tree disburses its seeds with the little “helicopter style” winged seeds.
I really should have the boys complete the one small square activity on our front grass right now with all the interesting things to be found. If you look carefully you will even see an acorn that some bird had stored somewhere and it fell out of its hiding spot during the storm. There are no oak trees anywhere near this grass so some creature had to bring it here…probably a woodpecker or a Scrub jay. The boys and I had a discussion about how the various trees in our area disperse their seeds.
You can also see the large cone from the magnolia that has already lost all of its beautiful red seeds. There are probably over a hundred of these cones in our front yard right now.
This is a perfect example of how when you examine something up close it is truly amazing. Look at the texture and the pattern! The magnolia tree is always giving us something to look at: beautiful green, glossy leaves, huge fragrant flowers, cones, red seeds. The bees love this tree when it is in bloom.
I could not help but try to capture a few of the red seeds that are left after the storm. I love the reds of the autumn and this one is a bright, cheery red.
This was a very unplanned nature study but very rewarding. We have not had any “weather” at all here except the wind. There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky to look at or an precipitation except for maybe a bit of dew a few mornings. We are experiencing unusually warm weather in the 70’s right now and very dry.
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