Bulbs

It’s not just the snowdrops that are waking up in the reserve’s woodland. Our native daffodils and bluebells are stirring, too.

All three of these species make bulbs, swollen underground stems in which, at the end of the growing season, they store energy and nutrients, as if they were charging a battery ready to fuel the next spring’s growth.

While the plants are dormant through the winter, the bulbs have important subterranean things to do as they wait for the triggers that will set the plant into new growth.

Under the cooling ground, a bulb will grow long roots that contract and pull it and its precious store of resources deeper into the soil, away from the damaging frost at the surface. As the temperature falls, the bulbs also begin to break down some of their stored sugars into smaller molecules which will act as ant-freeze, lowering the temperature at which the water in the bulb will freeze.

This protects the plant from the cold throughout the winter but the drop in temperature is also one of the triggers that tells the bulb it is time to start making the structures that will become the spear-like leaves that will push through the cold ground to the surface.

Depending on the species, variable periods of winter cold break the plant’s dormancy and begin the underground process of growth, invisible to us waiting impatiently for flowers up above.

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