The Study of a Twig

Botany | Deciduous Trees studying twigs

The Study of a Twig: Botany Nature Study

My middle school son has been enjoying a fabulous study of botany.  Today’s topic was the twig of a deciduous tree: What is a twig? Where are twigs located on trees? What grows on twigs? How do twigs grow?

We first learned about the terminal bud, which is the bud at the end of the twig where new growth (called the shoot) will grow from next spring.

Terminal bud scars circle the twig. These show branch growth from year to year.

Lateral buds, found all along the branches, develop just above where leaves are (or were) attached. Side shoots (otherwise known as new branches) will grow from these buds in the spring.

You can clearly see the new twigs that began growing from lateral buds on this dead branch. Above the shoot on the left side, you can also observe a leaf scar formed when a leaf fell off the branch.

We also learned that leaves grow in various patterns. They can grow alternately, like the leaves pictured above, or they can be whorled (in a sort of circle) or opposite each other on the branch.

My son spent time measuring the distance between bud scars, lateral buds, and more.  Measurements were noted in his nature journal and comparisons were made on single trees and from tree to tree.

We also had fun with an old Native American practice of measuring the height of trees. While not completely accurate (nor having anything to do with twigs), it is fun. You hold on to your ankles and walk away from a tree until you can see the top of the tree through your legs. Then, you measure from that place back to the tree. The measurement should be approximate to the height of the tree.

Botany and nature study can be so much fun, even if you never go any farther than your back yard!

Be sure to add this activity to your Delightful Deciduous Trees study!

There are more than 20 NaturExplorers topics available to help you teach science through nature study.


  1. Now I had never heard of the native American practice for measuring trees! Fun! What a thorough study. A perfect example of how much you can learn by looking up close and studying detail.

  2. So fun to see your pictures of how you studied the twigs. There’s nothing better than getting outside and observing things firsthand. Thanks for the great pictures, too!

    Sursum Corda,


  3. Wow! This is so refreshing to see… I admire you giving time to study the growth of twigs. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures.

  4. There is really so much to see when we look closely. God’s design is beautiful. I appreciate nature study because it makes me slow down and SEE.

  5. I love how accessible this is for multiple ages. We studied maple sugaring this winter and loved tromping through the snowy woods to ID and measure our maples. We are going out to do a twig walk next week!

  6. Yes, one of the things I love most about nature study is how well it works with multiple ages! Enjoy your twig walk!!

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