Color and Texture

By Greg Lecker

Like the display gardens, the natural world has built up much texture – as well as color – by this point in the growing season   This morning’s cool dry air has a definite autumnal feel.  Dew is plentiful; and the over-abundant rain is overflowing the water feature in the prairie’s water feature – again!

Texture Abounds

Texture Abounds

Between recent downpours, the full moon glowed brightly through the night-time tree canopy of my side yard.This morning’s clear blue sky allows appreciation of the waning gibbous moon hovering above the prairie, here faintly visible above the cup plant that stretches skyward.

Cup Plant and Waning Moon

Cup Plant and Waning Moon

The yellow composite (daisy-like) flowers of cup plant and others are yielding to goldenrod which has recently begun blooming.   In the low angle morning sun, goldenrod and blue giant hyssop make a pretty color duet blooming near the edge of the prairie.

Giant Blue Hyssop and Goldenrod

Giant Blue Hyssop and Goldenrod

It can’t be repeated often enough that goldenrod is not the source of pollen allergies like hay fever.  Its flower pollen grains are too large to be wind-borne.  Rather it is the inconspicuously flowering ragweed that spews light pollen to be distributed on the air to your nose.

Growing on the parking lot side of the Capen Display Garden, low bush honeysuckle is beautifully multi-colored.  The low morning sun projected on the leaves accentuates the pattern of red foliage color change.

Low Bush Honeysuckle

Low Bush Honeysuckle

Returning to the parking lot, I notice that the pagoda dogwood too is showing a remarkable amount of color change!

Pagoda Dogwood Color

Pagoda Dogwood Color

Don’t worry – there’s still plenty of summer remaining.  The state fair has yet to begin.  Labor Day is a few weeks away. Plenty of flowers have yet to bloom.  Driving around Three Mile Drive, I enjoy the fruit of crabapples and buckeyes and marvel at the huge blossoms of the hydrangea collection.  Schedule a visit to the Arboretum soon to see the peak bloom of so many flowers!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

 

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Mushrooms and Flowers and Grasses, Oh My!

By Mary Beth Pottratz

A warm 85⁰ and blue sky with distant clouds invites me into the Arboretum. Humidity is still high with the past week’s heavy rains, and the woodland provides a shady retreat.

Indian pipe

Indian pipe

An ant crawls across a large clump of Indian pipe. Also called ghost plant, it has a translucent radiance in the shaded woodland. Green acorns from red and pin oak are scattered on the forest floor. A concave yellow toadstool with a frill around its stem tries to hide under leaves. Gill mushrooms in shades of cream and tan catch pools of water.

White jelly fungus

White jelly fungus

Clusters of white baneberries glow, and white jelly fungus is luminous against the green. Red osier dogwood has smooth white berries, its leaves tinging deep burgundy. At the woodland’s edge, a meadowhawk dragonfly perches on a leaf. The spicy scent of sun-warmed phlox floats by.

Jewelweed

Jewelweed

Spotted touch-me-not, or jewelweed, is in full bloom around Green Heron Bog. When ripe, its seed pods burst open at a touch, flinging out the seeds. Hummingbirds gorge on its nectar before migrating. Only a few animals have a proboscis long enough to reach the nectar in the flower’s spur. Some jewelweeds have tiny holes in the spur – evidence of a wily, short-tongued bee or other insect!

Half of American spikenard’s green berries are ripened to shiny purple. False Solomon’s seal berries are still green. Bright yellow sneezeweed has three-lobed petals surrounding its disk. I startle as an eastern wood-pewee whistles its name loudly from the woods.

Blue lobelia

Blue lobelia

Last year’s new plantings at the northeastern edge of the boardwalk are especially beautiful: blue lobelia and blue vervain bloom in spikes; sweetly-scented swamp milkweed, pompoms of boneset fuzzy with white stamen,stalks of pink-tinted white turtlehead, waxy white arrowhead blossoms, and white meadowsweet setting its seeds. Dainty lavender asters stand tall. A lone wild petunia throws its petals open to the fading sun. Light violet false pimpernels shine against its green leaves. Pink-lavender obedient plant and tall stalks of spotted Joe-pye weed rise above the fray. Tiny damselflies dart in the flora. There is little breeze to shoo mosquitoes, so I walk on.

In the prairie, rough blazing star is still in blossom. A chipmunk skitters past. A tiny orange butterfly and a cabbage white flutter among flowers. Large-flowered beard tongue sports dapper brown seedpods along its stem. A few tiny mounds of prairie phlox are still pink with blossoms.

Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop

I smell anise hyssop before I see it! Its fragrant leaves are used in tea. Today, the grasses are luxuriant. Little bluestem is tipped with fuzzy white spikelets that catch the sun. I see turkey-foot seedheads of big bluestem. My favorite is Indian grass, dancing gracefully above my head in a breeze. Its golden-brown seedheads have tiny yellow florets and feathery white spikelets that defy my camera’s ability.

Indian grass

Indian grass

I also strike prairie gold! Yellow rosinweed flowers face me at eye-level, where I can inspect their interesting center disk flowers up close. Black-eyed Susans, smooth oxeye,and sprays of goldenrod gild the prairie. It’s too early for evening primrose, but its yellow blossoms prepare to unfurl.Jerusalem artichokes’ golden daisy-like flowers wobble on thin purplish stems.  And it is all set off by billows of flowering spurge drifting through the prairie like white clouds.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.

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A Golden Morning

By Boak Wiesner

A bright sunny morning finds me in the little pocket of prairie across the marsh from the Red Barn. I can tell it’s still the height of summer as very few of the Canada Goldenrod have yet to bloom. One inflorescence I do find open is already crawling with Soldier Beetles, almost as if they were diners crowding a new, trendy restaurant. They blend in well with the color of the blossoms, eating aphids and other soft-bodied insects.

 

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I also find the spherical galls of Goldenrod Gall Flies, and looking around, I’m left wondering why the Canada Goldenrod has galls whereas the Stiff Goldenrod does not? Has one an immunity to infection by the fly? By the way, our neighbors to the north call it Graceful Goldenrod.

 

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The tiny golden flowers of Big Bluestem need an up-close view. You can see the glumes and the lemmas at the base of the two kinds of flowers, the modified bracts that enclose each type.

 

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An invasive, Common St. Johnswort, has showy yellow flowers, too, the edges of which are lined with little sacs of oil that have a whole range of pharmaceutical applications, at least in controlled doses. Too much of a good thing may not be what the doctor ordered, though, or the veterinarian, in this case, as pastured animals eating too much can have some serious problems.
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Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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Lots of Yellow – and Not Just Sun!

By Greg Lecker

The humidity broke with the rain last week; and on this weekend, the green landscape greets my entry into the Grace Dayton woodland.  Black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower line the pathway.  As I enter the darkness of the shady canopy, two cardinals chirp a canon-like duet (canon=round).  Their red hue is a welcome accent to a scene that is a mass of green.

Lately, the woodland’s brook has been flowing strongly—draining the surrounding hills.  A few yellow coneflowers hint at the sun to come in the prairie!As I round the bend in the roadway at the shade tree collection, the hillside prairie comes into view.  Turkey tail (big bluestem) and yellow cup plant rise above the field around which a Monarch butterfly alights.

Big Bluestem, Cup Plant and Monarch

Big Bluestem, Cup Plant and Monarch

Blue vervain (more of a purple color, not actually blue) flowers decorate the fringe of the prairie.  White spires of Culver’s root in the prairie mimic the white fairy candles (black cohosh) blooming in the woodland.  However, it is the many yellow flowers blooming in prairies and meadows that is the focus of my attention.  The majority of these are composite flowers.  Resembling a child’s generic drawing of a flower, a composite flower’s petals surrounds a disc composed of a mass of tiny stamens and pistils.

A hovering bumble bee attracts my attention to rosinweed – the shortest of the composite flowers I see blooming.  Rough as sandpaper, its leaves are arranged in pairs that are perforated (perfoliate) by the stem that skewers them.

Rosinweed and Bumblebee

Rosinweed and Bumblebee

Gray headed coneflower combines with the wild bergamot to create a pleasing yellow-purple complementary color scheme. Drooping petals of gray headed coneflower flutter in the breeze; while an oak spreads its boughs over the grasses.

Gray Headed Coneflower

Gray Headed Coneflower

Two different species of yellow composite flower tower above the already rain-induced height of prairies grasses and forbs.  Even when viewed from a distance, the flower stems of two different flowers dominate the prairie – and the Capen Display garden.  I am completely intrigued by the prairie dock growing near the circular water feature nearest the parking lot.  Large, coarsely textured, triangular leaves surround the base of a tall stem which is topped by a cluster of yellow flowers that resemble those of rosinweed and cup plant.

Prairie Dock

Prairie Dock

Nearer to the trellis and the water fall, the fern-like leaves of Compass Plant climb and encircle its flower stem.  Arranged in a spiral fashion around the top of the stem, compass plant flowers point in generally two, three or four directions and lend this characteristic to the plant name.

Compass Plant

Compass Plant

From tall to small!  Initially nodding, then rising erect as buds open, Prairie Onion blooms at the fringe of the Capen Display garden spiral water feature.  The gurgling water is a welcome sight and sound on a weekend that is rising in temperature!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

 

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Wild Animals

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The sky is deep blue with just a few wispy clouds. Today’s 84⁰ and a brisk breeze has dried up much of last week’s humidity. Black-capped chickadees and crows call from the woodland trees, and a white-breasted nuthatch laughs nasally. Pagoda dogwood leaves are tinged red at the edges already!

Purple coneflowers

Purple coneflowers

Purple coneflowers and tall white spires of Culver’s root line the entrance to the Arboretum.

But I hurry to the prairie, where I know there will be many new blooms. And I’m right! Prairie blazing star has purple flowers along its thick spikes. Golden petals of grey-headed coneflower dot the prairie, along with rosinweed, black-eyed Susans and smooth oxeye.

Showy tick-trefoil has thin stems lined with delicate pink flowers and magenta buds. Flowering spurge blooms like white billows against green grasses and leaves, with its whorls of tiny white five-petaled flowers with yellow centers.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Bees and butterflies swarm pale lavender swaths of bee balm. Its soothing scent rises from the warm prairie. A song sparrow trills from its low perch on a bare stem and an Indigo bunting sings from a maple tree in the prairie. An eastern cottontail freezes in front of me, then darts quickly into greenery. But these aren’t the only animals at the Arb today.

A trio of young adults hold their phones out in front of them as they stroll. They’re catching Pokémon, imaginary wild animals with names like Nidoran, Bulbasaur, and yes, Pikachu too. The Arb offers a multitude of Pokéstops and gyms for all teams. “We’re definitely coming back!” they exclaim.

Tattered red-spotted purple butterfly

Tattered red-spotted purple butterfly

A tattered red-spotted purple butterfly sticks its proboscis into rattlesnake master flowers to suck the nectar. Prairie phlox and tiny bluets bloom in the prairie garden center. An eastern wood–pewee is perched atop a maple tree, catching flies and calling to its mate.

Tall stems of wild quinine are tipped with a bunch of florets that resemble tiny cabbages. A white crab spider hides, almost perfectly camouflaged, among the blooms. White sage glows silver in the sunlight.

Fragrant anise hyssop is still blooming, but most are setting seeds. Lead plant is in seed, as are white and yellow prairie clovers. A pair of cabbage whites dance around each other over the prairie.

Heart-leaved Alexanders

Heart-leaved Alexanders

Heart-leaved Alexanders sport pompoms of reddish seedpods at the end of yellow stems. Spiderworts, too,have a pompom of seeds forming atop each stem.

I find Vicky Bonk of Grow Monarch Habitat in the prairie garden, where we spotted two monarch butterflies! Vicki also works with the Monarch Festival in Minneapolis, which will be Sep. 10 this year; details are at http://monarchfestival.org. Goldfinches splash in the water, then hop out to preen.

Common whitetail dragonfly

Common whitetail dragonfly

A male common whitetail dragonfly suns on the pavement. Prairie dropseed grasses form smooth soft mounds – a soft bed to camp on! Two pileated woodpeckers call to each other and fly off into the Garden for Wildlife.

But there is still a promise of more to come: Showy and other goldenrods are forming buds at their tips; nodding wild onions have an explosion of buds that just popped through the papery outer skin. Several goldenrods even have those bulging mid-stem galls already! And the asters have only leaves. I’ll have to return soon!

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.

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Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

By Boak Wiesner

A cluster of baby Bur Oaks stops me in my tracks as well as pulls me out of my morning’s reverie – what will these young trees see in their lifetime, I wonder? Though they will not live long enough to see the advance of the next Ice Age, the most recent of which sculpted the landscape of the Arb itself, they will see the more rapid changes due to increased warming.

DSC_0307A bit further on, a full-grown tree with many limbs again stops me. To think, each part of that tree is getting about a quarter-inch bigger all around each year – that’s a lot of carbon dioxide to absorb. Would that it could be enough to lower the amount of that gas in our atmosphere!

DSC_0325Just after I climb onto the boardwalk, I see the tracks of a racoon glistening in the wet mud. As the fruits of plants around here as well as the young of invertebrates and smaller vertebrates, that racoon will have more and more to eat.

DSC_0338Here at high summer, most bird species have stopped singing. But as I get along on the boardwalk, the “witchity-witchity-witch” of a Common Yellowthroat greets me. He perches up on a branch so I think he is observing me – a change of roles!

DSC_0345A Common Whitetail couple joins me on the boardwalk. His brilliant white abdomen is covered in wax particles – it’s called pruinescence – and that’s the source for the name. Now if I could just get some to hang around in my yard to eat up the mosquitoes!

DSC_0352Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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Join the Insects in Checking Out the Arboretum

By Greg Lecker

Insects abound at the Arboretum – and just the Big Bugs sculptures!  Upon entering the woodland, I notice that the spring blooming woodland poppy has managed a second wave of yellow flowers.  White blooms dancing and towering over green foliage masses attract me to the southern path of the woodland wildflower garden.  Tall plant stalks with large palmately divided (like a hand) leaves end in white flower clusters.   These are glade mallow – monitor these leaves at summer’s end and you’ll likely find the skeletonizing of insects.

Glade Mallow

Glade Mallow

Speaking of insects, their infatuation of my skin is bugging me today.  Not just mosquitoes and flies, but a green colored flying insect.

Another woodland highlight is black cohosh or fairy candles.  Imagine tall two to four foot wiry candlesticks, thin wax tapers, and fern decorated candle-stands; that describes this woodland plant.

Fairy Candles

Fairy Candles

Pagoda dogwood tree berries are growing but are still green – though the berry stems (pedicels) are bright red. American elder is covered in large cascading white blooms that will become dark berries.

Though the woodland is a plain mass of green; Bennett Johnson prairie is entering its bloom cycle.  Drive slowly along Three Mile Drive, and one sees wave after wave of blooms – starting at the boulder retaining wall just past the shade tree collection. Common pink milkweed, black-eyed susan, purple coneflower – these are but a few flowers that brighten the edge of the prairie.  As I walk along the boulders, a chattering chipmunk startles me.

Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflower

Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflower

Surrounding the David Winton Addition signpost are wild roses that are covered with honey bees and bumblebees.

Bumblebee and Honey Bee

Bumblebee and Honey Bee

If one can afford a few minutes, pull your vehicle into the prairie parking lot and lose yourself by walking along mown prairie paths or the easy trails around the Capen display garden.  Look for butterflies on liatris and showy orange butterfly weed, as well as wild bergamot.

Liatris and Butterfly Weed

Liatris and Butterfly Weed

Walking back to the Sensory Garden via the shady ravine path, I find that the insects have chosen the little stream below.  I check out the exhibit of brush painting in the Reedy gallery.  In the Oswald Building great hall, giant fanciful Venus Flytrap and Sundew sculptural displays describe the insect eating nature of the comparatively smaller – though live – plants growing in terrariums.  Don’t let insects bother you – come appreciate their world!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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