Wild Wonders: How Fast Do Tree Leaves Grow?


  • Ruler
  • Paper, notebook, or nature journal to record measurements and observations
  • Pencil or pen

Before You Explore:

Many trees begin to grow new branches and develop leaves in early May. Branches and leaves grow from buds on tree branches. Check out our Bud Buddy activity in April, which you can do first as buds begin to swell. This activity is perfect for when buds burst and leaves begin to unfurl. In this activity, you’ll pick and flag and bud, then observe and measure its changes over just a few days.

Connect with Nature:

  • Find a deciduous tree near your home (one that drops its leaves in winter) that you can visit often, maybe even at the beginning and end of each day. Choose a bud on a low branch and tie a fabric or other ribbon near it to mark it.
  • Make a nature journal (or just grab some paper) to record your observations (just like a scientist). Visit your bud, then record the date and write about or draw the changes you observe. Does the bud turn into a branch, leaf, or blossom? How quickly (or slowly) does it take to open?
  • Find a leaf bud, watch it daily, and record the changes from the time it opens to its final, mature size. Once some leaves begin to open, measure them, ideally in the morning. Visit the leaf later in the day and measure them again. How much have they grown? Can you predict how much they will grow tomorrow?
  • How many days does it take for the leaf to achieve its full size? Are there times when it grows fastest? Do you observe any times when it grows more slowly? Can you relate any of these changes in growth to the weather?

Dive Deeper:

  • Find some young leaves on a beech tree. You’ll see that the young leaves are quite hairy. Why do you think they’re hairy? Could there be several reasons? How many can you think of?  Write down your thoughts, and then do some research to answer this question. Can you find the scientific name for the hairs?