First Week of Fall

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The woods are still vibrant green. Sunlight bounces off leaves. The canopy is airy, as some leaves have already fallen.

Airy canopy

Airy canopy

Mushrooms abound after our tumultuous September rains: Blobs of white mushrooms tarred with grit and feathered with aspic; a white-stalked mushroom with a concave red top; yellow shelf fungus with orange centers; another shelf fungus in darker shades of orange and brown with ruffled edges;plate-like mushrooms coated with a clear jelly lining a deadfall; and just above them, button mushrooms with brown dots,orange tint, and stems studded with pointed brown barbs.

Red-capped mushroom

Red-capped mushroom

A few lavender-grey flowers of Joe-Pye weed are in bloom, but most are already fluffy brown seedheads. Golden sneezeweed flowers attract bees, butterflies and flies as each new level of the disk flowers bloom and offer nectar.

Sneezeweed

Sneezeweed

Water around the Green Heron Bog is deep, and in many places it gurgles and runs like a brook. Bright green duckweed tops the water, and mosses form verdant green mounds.

Red-osier flower

Red-osier flower

Red-osier dogwood leaves are mostly crimson. They curve inward, drooping gracefully from each stem and ruffling in the breeze. A surprise holdover – a bright white blossom – stands out against the dark leaves.

A couple seated on the deck overlooking Green Heron Pond play with 5-month old Mary and hold her up to enjoy the view. Wood ducks paddle on the far side. Suddenly, the bog’s namesake flies across the deck just inches behind the couple, startling little Mary and making us both laugh. A moment later, the green heron swoops onto the railing and jumps down into the wetland fray.

Crickets chirp and grasshoppers whirr from beyond the boardwalk. A lone cicada buzzes nearby. A great-horned owl hoots in the distance. Nearby birds give only single chirps, alerting each other to my presence and hiding deep in shrubs. I see chickadees, blue jays, crows, sparrows, and a hairy woodpecker.

Some swamp milkweeds have closed green seedpods. Others have orange and black milkweed beetles huddled in open seedpods. Nodding bur-marigold still sport yellow blooms. The bog water is unusually deep, and makes patterns as it flows and reflects the sky.

Fluffy balls of grey boneset seedheads top still-green plants. A few jewelweed still bloom, but we see no hummingbirds. A turkey vulture soars silently overhead. Amazingly, a few clumps of marsh marigolds are in bloom, probably urged on by our warm weather and heavy rains. It usually spends its last blossom in May!

Blue lobelia

Blue lobelia

Marsh willowherb has large tangles of deep tan seedheads. Blue lobelia still blooms. Sensitive fern is starting to yellow.

An orange butterfly flits by. Monarch or viceroy? I’m unsure. White flat-topped asters and pale lavender crooked-stem asters bloom throughout the wetland.Meadowsweet leaves are yellowing, and its seed stalks are brittle brown. Anise hyssop’s last few lavender florets scent the air. Sedges explode with nutlets gone to seed.

Obedient plant

Obedient plant

Obedient plant is resplendent in rust, green and wine-colored foliage, with tall seed stalks of brown and purple florets and seedheads. Common winterberry branches bend down with heavy clusters of bright red berries.

Tall tamaracks’ needles are starting to yellow, in preparation for their fall. The youngest tamaracks are already fully gold, promising fall and cooler weather.

Newly grown greenish-yellow catkins of the yellow birch peek out from under the toothed leaves. I love autumn and am glad it is finally here, and the catkins remind me that spring will come in good time.

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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Golden Morning

By Boak Wiesner

The first day this year when I sense in the air that fall may finally be upon us finds me out on the prairie, where I’m surrounded, bathed by the yellow-gold light of many kinds of “sun” flowers. If there’s a better example of Darwin’s “endless forms most beautiful”, I cannot think of one.

dsc_0025Oh, look – it’s a Monarch! This one will be heading off to Mexico within the week, probably. The Monarchs east of the Rockies head south to just a very few mountain valleys west of Mexico City in Michoacan province. Adios, amigo!

dsc_0016And what is the very next lepidopteran I see? One that lets me dwell on Batesian mimicry, even. Yes, it’s a Viceroy. It appears to have evolved the same coloration pattern as the larger Monarch, which is poisonous due to its caterpillar chowing down on milkweed, whose “juice” is loaded with noxious alkaloids, as well as some cool cardiac glycosides. Makes my heart go “boom” just thinking about ‘em. (Which is the effect of that chemical.)

dsc_0045Examining a Milkweed for signs of Monarch caterpillars or pupae, I find a gathering of Milkweed Bugs. These are the second-to-last stage of their life cycle. They do not go through complete metamorphosis as do Monarchs, but instead hatch out into a form resembling a small adult and then go through several stages, called instars.

dsc_0060A cluster of Black-eyed Susans add their golden glow to the morning air. Each of the petals is actually its own little floret, and together they add up to something beautiful. Flowers like this are in the Family Compositae.

dsc_0068Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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Lost and Found

By Greg Lecker

The Arboretum grounds are lush and full at this time of year!  The Grace Dayton woodland garden has regained color and interest as the late summer flowers have begun blooming.  Sunlight streams in through openings in the tree canopy and backlights maples leaves.    Returning again to a woodland that misses her spring ephemeral blooms, autumn shade flowers are enjoying a last hurrah before autumn foliage takes center stage.

At woodland openings and along the entry path spotted jewelweed blooms.  The plant is named jewelweed because of the way water droplets bead on the plant leaves and reflect color and light.  Trumpet-like flowers attract hummingbirds.  The plant’s alternative name, Touch-me-not, describes its unique seed dispersal!  After flowering, long gel-like fruits form.  The ribs of these cigar shaped fruits swell with the growing seeds within.  At the slightest touch, these ribs recoil backwards and fling seeds a remarkable distance.  In a dense stand of the plant, scattering seeds may set off a chain reaction in which one plant after another peppers the surrounding area with seeds.  In moist areas, the plant forms dense colonies that can be invasive in the manicured landscape.  Falling to the ground, the spent skin is transformed into what appears to be a miniature culinary garnish.

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

Here and there, pink turtlehead blooms.  The plant often accompanies spotted jewelweed since both appreciate soil moisture.  In the drier woodland areas, a white flower and a yellow flower dominate.  Along woodland edges and openings, white snakeroot blooms for a month or two.

White Snakeroot

White Snakeroot

My favorite autumn woodland flower is zig-zag goldenrod.  I only wish that my front yard I had the Arboretum’s natural predators to prey on city rabbits that prefer the plant stems and leaves.  Especially when young, the stems and leaves of these two plants appear similar.  Zig-zag goldenrod must taste better!

Zig-zag Goldenrod

Zig-zag Goldenrod

Since an afternoon visit is a rare for me, I notice the light now coming from a different direction.  Grazing illumination accents the river birch that leans over the woodland path.  Its exfoliating copper colored bark is especially attractive.A rare “binky” blossom dangles from a plant stem.

Binky Blossom

Binky Blossom

Found on the ground, the pacifier has been thoughtfully and carefully placed, hopefully to attract its owner.

Duckweed completely covers the surface of the woodland pool with a bright green skin.  Along the path above the pool, plenty of wingstem flowers and forming seed heads decorate the plant stems.  Review my September 22, 2014 post to learn more about this uncommon plant.

In the prairie, the roadside hill appears a five feet taller than it was in the springtime – due to the lush grasses and forbs that have grown this summer.  Seed stalks and flower stems tower over the foliage.  Two different asters are blooming:  a small blue-violet aster and the taller New England Aster.

New England Aster

New England Aster

New England aster blooms with lush large purple to violet color blooms, often with orange centers.  It’s a native that finds welcome use in the cultivated garden.

The line of yellow flowers of black-eyed Susans and goldenrod mirror the layered stone ledges above the water feature of the Capen display garden.  A monarch drinks from prairie dock flowers and basks in the late afternoon heat!

Visit the Arboretum this month to see all the flowers in bloom – the native ones as well as those in the display gardens.  Visit next month for peak autumn color!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

 

 

 

 

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Gentle Gentians

By Mary Beth Pottratz

A bright green tree frog clings for dear life to an arrowhead stalk waving in a 15-mile an hour wind. He is surrounded by the waxy white flower petals and green seed balls. Crickets trill loudly and a pair of cicadas saw in the distance.

Tree Frog

Tree Frog

Huge plumes of showy goldenrod flowers provide the main color in the green meadow backdrop. Blue vervain’s tiny florets shout their last hurrahs from the spike tips. Its leaves are bug-eaten into a fine lace.

I find an interesting display of carnivorous plants in the Great Hall. Native to tamarack and black spruce bogs of northern Minnesota, specimens of pitcher plants, tiny sundews and butterworts await their next insect meal.

Sundews

Sundews

In the Spring Peeper Meadow, evening primrose are just starting to open under late afternoon clouds. Giant bur-reed’s spiky green balls have faded to brown, and some of the seeds have already been eaten away. Joe-pye weed is still blooming, and beneath, pink smartweed lifts its tiny pink buds. A red meadowhawk rests on the warmth of dried vegetation, its wings tinged amber at the base.

Bottle Gentian

Bottle Gentian

Flocks of geese honk overhead, vying for position in their V-formation. Glowing blue in the grass, a bottle gentian raises its closed petals upwards. The blue tips are fringed white. Golden balls of sneezeweed flowers brighten the meadow.

In the prairie, anise hyssop and bee balm’s faded petals and drying leaves still scent the air. Stiff goldenrod and tall yellow flowers of prairie dock dot the landscape with golden pompoms. Canada goldenrod is just setting its buds, while Canada wild rye’s light tan seedheads and long, spindly awns arch over with their weight. Cucumber vine sends up stalks with pairs of white, long-petaled flowers, some with burr-crusted “cucumbers”.

White Asters

White Asters

White asters grow in waves. Yellow gentians buds are still pale green and twisted tightly shut. A pair of goldfinches perch on a branch. The adult female in olive drab seems to be tapping its beak on a juvenile’s, while the juvenile shakes its wings and repeats a steady call. I wonder whether she is feeding it.

Dwarf bush honeysuckles are still green with burgundy-colored tinging on its topmost leaves. The once-purple flowers of liatris have become fuzzy tan as it prepares to set seed. Smooth blue asters wink at me as they bobble in the breeze.

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

Spiderwort is still in lavender-purple bloom! Black- and brown-eyed Susans stand out in the green and tan prairie. Yellow compass plant flowers with brown centers rise several feet above my head! Lemon-yellow rosinweed is till blooming and forming seedheads.

Hairy golden asters twist around lower stems of sunflowers and goldenrods. A few purple coneflowers still have ray flowers, but most are drying disks. Rattlesnake master’s flowers have morphed into dry green and tan balls. A pair of monarchs fly slowly through the fray. One nectars on New England aster.

The grasses are a special treat right now. Many have miniscule florets dripping off the tip of the seedhead. Little bluestem is green at the base, with pipestone stalks and cream-colored feathery tufts at the top.

Narrow Footpath

Narrow Footpath

Walking along a narrow footpath through tall blades of big bluestem and Indian grass, I have to look up to see sky! Amazingly bugless, the silky grasses brush me like caresses in the brisk wind. I will 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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“Morning Fog Will Burn by Noon”

By Boak Wiesner

Lingering fog has yet to burn off completely as I start around Green Heron pond, lending the scene a rather Impressionistic feel, edges not quite defined, soft. With so much rain these last weeks, there’s little evidence that fall is coming. It looks like June.

DSC_0380I’m curious to check out new things on the west side of the Arb, but I am stopped short by the plethora of hummingbirds scrapping amongst themselves over the little pocket march just west of the education area. I count eight, just in this small area. They’re imbibing the nectar of all the Jewelweed blooming right now. Both of our native species brighten the morning with their sunny colors. The juice in their stems is a well-known remedy for Poison Ivy and nettles. Last night’s rainwater still lingers on their leaves.

Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)

Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis)

Pale Touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida)

Pale Touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida)

Along with the hummers are a couple of Catbirds. They flit among the branches around the marsh. Growing up those branches are a couple of kinds of binding plants. The showy flowers of Hedge Bindweed contrast with their pink the oranges and yellows in the marsh. An invasive exotic, they can take over from native plants.

Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium)

Jutting out from the tangle of vines are the fruits of Virginia Creeper also give some nice contrasting colors with their red stems and blue fruits. Don’t eat ‘em, though! They contain calcium oxalate, the sharp, pointy crystals of which hurt when they pierce the skin.

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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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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