Alternate Budded Trees with True Terminal Buds I

Asimina triloba Pawpaw


Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small understory tree that grows in floodplains in southern Michigan, ranging north to Bay City. The buds are tomentose (meaning with short bent matted hairs). The terminal bud is long and the lateral buds are smaller and appressed. Spherical flower buds often occur even on trees as short as five feet tall.

Carya cordiformis and Carya ovata Bitternut and Shagbark Hickory

Bitternut and Shagbark Hickory

Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis) has sulfur-yellow buds that appear to lack bud scales. It is the only Michigan tree species with yellow buds.Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) has a large terminal bud with spreading outer bud scales. The lateral buds are smaller.

Juglans cinerea Butternut




Butternut (Juglans cinerea) has a chocolate-brown chambered pith. The leaf scar is not notched and often has a downy ridge across the top. This leaf scar has a camel-face appearance. The terminal bud is longer than it is wide.

Juglans nigra Black Walnut

Black Walnut



Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) has a cream-colored chambered pith. The leaf scar is notched. The terminal bud is as wide as it is long.




Liriodendron tulipifera Tuliptree


Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) has smooth shiny twigs with flattened, short-stalked, terminal buds. The lateral buds are sessile (meaning without stalks) and possess prominent stipule scars. The pith is diaphragmed. This species is the tallest tree east of the Mississippi.

Sassafras albidum Sassafras



Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) grows throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It is more common south of Bay City. The terminal buds are greenish and the twigs are green and aromatic. Sassafras is the only Michigan trees species that has new growth that branches.


Posted by Donald Drife

Webpage Michigan Nature Guy

Michigan Orchids

Orchids have intrigued people’s imagination for centuries. The plants use different methods to trick pollinators. They have complex flower designs that ensure they release and receive pollen. Some plants mimic insect’s forms and smells. Orchids occur everywhere except Antarctica. Many people are surprised to learn the Michigan has 56 native orchid species. Most of our natives are obscure. Upon showing people a native orchid, their first response is often something such as “that’s an orchid?”

L-R Pink Lady-slipper,Yellow Lady-slipper, Showy Lady-slipper

L-R Pink Lady-slipper,Yellow Lady-slipper, Showy Lady-slipper

Our five species of Lady-slippers are the orchids that most people see. The first orchid I remember seeing was a Pink Lady-slipper (Cypripedium acaule) at Proud Lake Recreation Area. I think this was before I started elementary school. Those plants grew in a quaking bog and a few years later I saw plants growing in dry soil behind a sand dune. It was the acid soil they required not the moisture.

Arethusa bulbosa

Swamp Dragon

The Swamp Dragon (Arethusa bulbosa) was another plant that I learned about from one of my father’s Kodachrome slides. The first colony I ever found was back in 1974 in the Keweenaw Peninsula. I leapt across a roadside ditch to explore a rock outcropping and jumped over a few hundred plants. They were growing out of sphagnum moss. I have seen thousands of plants since then.




Alaska Orchid (Platanthera unalascensis) is a disjunct from the west. It grows in the Rocky Mountains, the Black Hills, the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula, the Bruce Peninsula, and the Gaspe Bay area. It has been placed in the genus Habenaria, and also Piperia. Currently, it is grouped with the Rein Orchids in the genus Platanthera. It has been called the “tall, thin, green, nothing.”

Platanthera unalascensis

Alaska Orchid

I found the plants in the spring of 1979, near Cedarville, Michigan while looking for Calypso. I returned a month later and discovered that the plants were in bud. Ten days later, I drove the 300 miles from my house to the colony (this was before I had heard the term “carbon footprint.”)  None of the plants had opened their blossoms. I returned a week later and the deer had browsed off every flower spike. I found plants, sometimes in bud and sometimes in seed. It was over 30 years before I finally saw the plant in flower.

Hunting orchids is a great reason to get out into nature. You never know what you will find when you jump over a ditch or wander onto a limestone outcropping. Just get out and explore.