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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Summer Bounty

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Prairie roses

Prairie roses

Prairie roses shine pink, rose and white against the meadow green. Dwarf bush honeysuckle’s tiny explosion of yellow flowers have stamen shaped like enoki mushrooms. A light breeze foils the mosquitoes and cools me from 80 summery degrees.

I smell it before I see it: the sweet, powdery scent of common milkweed in full bloom. Bright pink showy tick-trefoil rises around it. A trio of pale purple coneflowers, like most plants in the very dry prairie, droop languidly. Purple coneflowers are in bud. Only one has a few tiny petals starting to emerge.

Gray-headed coneflowers

Gray-headed coneflowers

Gray-headed coneflowers have tiny yellow petals, or ray flowers, just starting to extend from the cone.The disk flowers form a Fibonacci mural of green buds.   An orange butterfly with black and white flits past quickly. Was it a monarch?

New Jersey tea boasts pompoms of tiny flowers: five petals curved back into the center, plus five long petals extending past them, tipped with tiny bowls. Purple blazing star have just started opening their purple florets with thread-like stamens extending beyond the petals. My friend reminds me that they bloom from the tip down.

Eastern pondhawk

Eastern pondhawk

An eastern pondhawk dragonfly perches briefly on a leaf. Nearby, a house wren repeats its loud, bubbling call from the roof of a bluebird box.

Petals gone, thimbleweeds and large-flowered beardtongue have green fruits. Stalks of white and purple prairie clover glow under a cloudless sky. Spiderworts bulge with ripening fruits.An indigo bunting perches almost invisibly in a treetop, blending with the deep blue sky. Its melodic string of two-syllable whistles exposes it. A common yellowthroat replies, “Wickety-wickety.”

Lead plant

Lead plant

Furry spikes of lead plant flowers lend a lavender tint to the green of the prairie, highlighted in spots by the gray-silver of white sage, airy white billows of northern bedstraw, and dotted gold with smooth oxeye and black-eyed Susans.

Looking down between the greenery, I spot a bright pink prairie phlox. Puffs of grasses with seedheads are blushing pipestone-red or dangling tiny yellow florets. Culver’s root plants lean under the weight of their buds. A twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly rests on a dead stalk, its body glinting almost metallic gold in the bright sun.

Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop

A widow skimmer dragonfly poses to display its brown and amber stained glass wings. Another spike with delicate lavender flowers, anise hyssop waves in the breeze. Its spicy fragrant leaves make a delicious tea.

A song sparrow straddles the crotch of a sapling as it sings its heart out across the prairie. Bunches of fleabane like tiny daisies waft over the greens. Rattlesnake master sports pointed buds on its flower globes, soon to display tiny white florets.

White wild indigo

White wild indigo

Stately stalks of white wild indigo are busy with bees. Most already have large green fruits. But along the prairie trail, many of the stalks stand bare; the fruits stripped off, without telltale deer-chewed edges. What or who would do that, I wonder?

Dainty stalks of petite white flowers rise along the branched stems of enchanter’s nightshade, dotting the prairie’s edge at a woodland. In the shade, the temperature drops five degrees. The ground here is dusted with orange-gold dried flower parts, perhaps from the trees above.

Wild rye and bottlebrush grasses mingle with stalks of white large beardtongue and heads of wild quinine flowers. Tomorrow’s forecasted rain should turn this bounty into a profusion of flowers!

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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Sultry Morning in the Forest

By Boak Wiesner

Escaping the heat of an early summer morning, I slip into the deep woods of the Wildflower Garden. The dense foliage lets through only a little light which dapples the forest floor. The sun peeps through the leaves overhead.

DSC_0344Here amongst the handful of Hemlocks, I’m reminded of how much this little glen reminds me of the coves in the Smokies. There is a marked contrast between the light green of this year’s new growth and the much darker green of the that of the past. A shaft of sunlight makes the effect even more apparent. Aldo Leopold refers to this growth at the end of the branches the “candle” – how apt!

DSC_0355The fact that I have to look closely to see a gang of seven turkeys picking their way through the woods near me after hearing them for a time well demonstrates how the dappled floor with dead leaf litter can let even big animals be pretty camouflaged.

DSC_0370Some leaves of Swamp White Oak stop me in my tracks – it’s the fact that they’re all chowed down! What makes them so delectable to caterpillars compared to all the other trees around here, I wonder. No other species of tree is so significantly consumed. Could it be that it’s not native, really, around here so the local denizens are going after the novel taste?

DSC_0395A Gray Squirrel, what animal so well defines a forest around here, takes pause and, in the next instant, chases after another.  It’s summer – time to play!

DSC_0407Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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Hot and Tall; Long Summer Days!

By Greg Lecker

The hot and wet weather has driven the growing heights and biomass of plants.  Reaching Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, I head directly to the showy lady’s slippers – and I sadly discover that their pink and white blooms are past peak and fading fast.  I will investigate the larger clump at Green Heron Pond.  Among the late woodland foliage, I happily find the fresh flowers of cow parsnip.

Cow Parsnip

Cow Parsnip

Over the past three weeks, its stalks have skyrocketed upward! I struggle to capture all the charms of the tall plant in a photograph – swollen joints on plant stem, large leaves and flower umbels!  It thrives in the moist soil of the woodland between Three Mile Drive and the woodland pool.

While the woodland has faded from floral profusion to green sameness; the prairie is just hitting its stride.  Flowers are rising above the grasses; and colors are especially vibrant under the brilliant light of a clear day!

Wild white indigo flowers are blooming from bottom to top of its tall flower stalks.  The parade of yellow composite flowers has begun.  In the Capen prairie display garden water feature, purple prairie clover is in bud.  Purple pink prairie phlox is blooming.  A wildflower of bluff top and rocky habitats, pale blue violet harebell quivers in today’s breeze.

Harebell

Harebell

Near the parking lot, the yellow flowers of northern or dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) are abuzz with a bumblebee or two.   The bee hovers and flies around the juvenile reddish leaves.  On its hind legs, the “pollen baskets”glow and grow golden orange as it accumulates pollen the bee has brushed from its body after collecting pollen from the flowers it visits.

Honeysuckle and Bumblebee

Honeysuckle and Bumblebee

The most prolific amidst the prairie blooms is white beard-tongue (Penstemon digitalis).  It blooms in overflowing drifts that line the path on the south side of the Capen display garden leading me to the shade tree collection.  I find it also on the informal path south of the Sensory Garden restrooms and on the north edge of the wet meadow portion of Iris Pond on my way to Green Heron Pond.

Beard-Tongue

Beard-Tongue

A striped wren with rust colored head darts around the woodland edge.  It is joined by dragonflies, butterflies, and red-winged blackbirds.

Showy Lady’s Slipper

Showy Lady’s Slipper

Yes! At the southeast corner of Green Heron Pond, the large mass of showy lady’s slippers are largely still at full bloom – though almost half have begun to fade.  Run, don’t walk, to the Arboretum if you are interested in seeing these flowers at the Leonard & Irene Truhn Native Orchid Area located just south of the bog boardwalk.   These pink and white flowers – our state flower – are accompanied by the maroon and gold lady’s slippers, which have a longer bloom period.  These maroon and gold flowers should be the University of Minnesota’s school flower – if there is such a thing.  Wherever these flowers grow, do let them be – and appreciate them in the place where they grow best.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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Springing into Summer

By Mary Beth Pottratz

As I enter the Arboretum, an Eyed Click Beetle flew right into our car. The two-inch long black beetle with white mottling has two huge white rings around a pair of black spots. This gives the appearance of large eyes, presumably scaring away predators. If it lands on its back, it arches its body and snaps itself upward with a “click”, and once airborne it can escape.

Eyed Click Beetle

Eyed Click Beetle

Unlike its vegan wireworm cousins that can damage crops and plantings, Eyed Click Beetles eat wood-boring insects. It doesn’t harm crops and plantings, and is needed to aid decomposition. I nestle it safely on a nearby leaf.

Large Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Large Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Smooth Solomon’s seal is in full flower; tiny cream-colored blossoms hang from axils beneath the stem. Northern bedstraw has clumps of tiny, white, four-petaled blooms. Large yellow Lady’s-slippers are in full flower; I find several showy lady’s-slippers still blooming.

Wild rose lifts its sweet scent in the warm air. Stalks of alum root are studded with green flowers. The orange stamen tips are barely visible beneath the petals. Common yellowthroats call back and forth, and red-eyed vireos seem to answer them!

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

Shooting star has long green fruits beneath its shriveled petals. A daddy longlegs spider sits atop a fern leaf like King of the Hill. White beardtongues glow in the dim forest light. Golden Alexanders explode with tiny golden florets. Spiderwort is setting its fruit.

Near the iris garden wetland, dragonflies dart everywhere. A twelve-spotted skimmer perches on a soft-stem bulrush nutlet. Another dragonfly has amber-colored wings at their base, like stained glass windows.I recognize the short, buzzy trill of a clay-colored sparrow. Philadelphia fleabane is tipped with tiny, daisy-like flowers, some white and others pink.

Prairie Phlox

Prairie Phlox

In the prairie, tiny longleaf bluets sprawl near rocks. Compact clumps of diminutive prairie phlox grow in the prairie garden. White pea-shaped flowers climb up sturdy stalks of white wild indigo. Wild quinine has clumps of tiny green buds at the tips.

Blue Flag Iris

Blue Flag Iris

At the Spring Peeper Meadow, a yellow warbler greets me with its sweet, high-pitched song. Song sparrows, an eastern bluebird, and red-winged blackbirds serenade me in. Blue flag iris dot the wetland with color.

Common milkweeds are setting their green buds. There are hundreds here. A quick inspection shows no sign of monarch larval chewing yet. Fuzzy green buds adorn the tips of lead plants. Cinquefoils are just starting to open their golden petals, and tiny green grapes dangle from wild grape vines.

Soft Stem Bulrush

Soft Stem Bulrush

Raspberries are done flowering and starting to set their fruits. Arrowhead leaves point to the sky. Soft stem bulrush sport brown nutlets from their tips. Most interesting are the giant bur-reeds with zigzag stems of small green balls, some spikey with white pistils.

Giant Bur-reeds

Giant Bur-reeds

Green staghorn sumac buds are starting to burst open to show off yellow flowers. Balls of white florets with crimson centers and yellow-tipped stamen sit at red osier dogwood tips. Cup plants are chest-high. The bubble and squeak serenades of a bobolink escort me as I leave.

Over the arboretum entrance, four osprey circle overhead, mewing and calling me back another day.

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

 

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