Friday, February 17, 2017

Secret Garden: Winter buds in the forests of Yokohama

Winter is quiet in the forests of Yokohama … er, unless the Lovers and the others are busy maintenance and restoration works with chainsaws or mowers. Anyway! Provided there are no commotion like these, winter forests in our home city are calm and quiet visibly and audibly. The colors on the ground incline monotonically, and no chorus of cicadas. Thanks to the surrounding mountains, Kanto Region in winter is often dry with lots of winter sunshine or occasional heavy snow. The contrast between pure blue sky and very-dark green of forests, or dramatically snow-grey clouds over the Zen-like vegetation is really something for the megalopolis. I love this season. The air is meditative. Everything seems to be dead silent … so I thought. Wrong. I have learned there are jolly chatters of plants in the forests during winter. Winter buds are secretly cute and very talkative.

A winter bud and cicatrix of
Pueraria montana var. lobata from

In Niiharu, Dr. Toshiko Kitagawa 北川淑子 of Flora Kanagawa Association recently held seminars for beginners to enjoy winter buds in the forests. She said we can appreciate the extremely rich variety of winter buds by looking (1) the way they attach to the twigs (2) the shape, color, and numbers of them, (3) the shape and color of cicatrix next to or surrounding the buds, and (4) the scars of vascular bundles left by fallen leaves. With magnifying glasses and microscopes, we inspected how bud scales covered the contents. I was impressed clever ways of folding leaves by naked buds. We learned shapes of cicatrix were unique for each family. None had the same expression with the others even if they were from the same twigs. They are tiny, but inside neatly organize all the new leaves, flowers, growth points, and nothing useless … the ultimate KonMari method of tiny universe. With vascular bundle scars, they looked like faces of mischievous fairies. They are secrets in winter forests of Yokohama!

Carpinus tschonoskii in Niiharu
Zanthoxylum ailanthoides in Niiharu
Clerodendrum trichotomum in Niiharu
Euscaphis japonica in Niiharu
Rhus javanica var. chinensis in Niiharu
It’s a baby!
 Magnolia obovate in Niiharu
Rubus palmatus var. coptophyllus in Niiharu
Staphylea bumalda DC. in Niiharu

Dr. Kitagawa gave us a reference sheet to identify winter buds in the forests of Yokohama. I translated and show it to you. The method is based on a chart made by Mr. Teruo Katsuyama 勝山輝夫, and arranged by Dr. Kitagawa for Satoyama 里山 in Yokohama. I hope it is useful for your quiet strolling in the winter forests of Yokohama. :-)

The search chart for winter buds of 42 trees in the forests of Yokohama, by Dr. Toshiko Kitagawa.

If you find a problem in Yokohama’s Forest, please make a contact with

Office for the administration of Park Greeneries 公園緑地管理課
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局

Phone: 045-671-2648 (I guess in Japanese only)

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