Northland Nature: Pines show new growth on branches

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at

New growth on a branch of a white pine as it appears in mid-June. (Photo by Larry Weber)

During the last two months, the Northland deciduous trees that stood out in the cold all winter without any foliage have put on quite a show. It began with the formation of catkins in early April.

These long-shaped unique flowers on branches of willows, aspen, alders and hazels developed pollen. Taking advantage of the breezes at this time, the pollen scattered about. Silver maples and then red maples took this to the next step as they developed small reddish (pistillate) flowers on female trees and staminate flowers with plenty of pollen on male trees. April remained without tree foliage.

As we entered May, the leaf buds began to open on local woody plants. Beginning with smaller ones, like elderberry and gooseberry, the greening rose on taller trees with quaking aspens. Throughout the 31 of this month, the greening continued. As we exited the month, even the trees that were slow to open their leaves were greening as well. By the first week of June, the woods are fully green.

In the midst of all of this greening, many deciduous trees put on another show of their own — this one was floral. Shortly after mid-month, a trio of small trees — plum, juneberry and pin cherry — opened up flower buds of another type.

Often called "blossoms" when on trees, these attractive clusters of petaled flowers also started appearing in other trees and by the time we reach June, blossoms have shown up on elderberry, chokecherry, crab apple, domestic apple and lilac.


For the last couple weeks, we have been able to see plenty of forest flora without looking at the forest floor. (In the shade of the greening woods, the early spring wildflowers have faded.) Willows and aspens that were early to form catkins now give an encore.

The seeds that developed from the April pollination have matured. With coats of fluff, they drift in the breeze at this time in a “warm-weather snowfall."

Meanwhile, the coniferous trees waited until all of this change from the deciduous trees had passed and now it is the conifer time. Walking by pine trees in mid-June, we see new growth of this season as extensions of branches stick up in a vertical pose.

New growth on a branch of a red pine as it appears in mid-June. (Photo by Larry Weber)

Being a lighter color, it is easy to discern this new growth. Such growths, often called "candles," are most obvious on pines, though new growth happens on other conifers, too.

The trees, regardless of their age, are growing new branches (twigs). Trees never stop growing their whole life and do so in three ways: They grow down in the soil from the roots, wider on the trunks and longer on the tips (twigs) of branches.

Taking advantage of the conditions of June — warm, wet and plenty of sunlight — they put forth a new growth that lasts a couple weeks. And we now see it clearly at this time. (Deciduous trees also grow longer branches, but are not as obvious as the coniferous ones.)


With conifers, this is quickly followed by the formation — growth and maturation of pollen cones with pollen drifting in the air. We often see this yellow dust on lakes. But now, we see this new growth on pines telling us that the trees continue to grow.

The pines are one of many trees and flowers that grow much in June.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books.
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