Colors, Textures and Sounds of Spring

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The landscape is awash in color: Green grasses, sedges and plants, treetops brushed with pale greens, shrubs and undercanopy painted magenta, pink and white, willows glowing neon green.

Tulips in smooth lipstick shades bloom in large swatches in the annual gardens. The rock garden is a mosaic of textures, shapes, and colors. But the wild call of a Pileated woodpecker beckons me into the forest wildflower garden.

Large-flowered trilliums

Large-flowered trilliums

Large-flowered trilliums dot the woodland floor with white. Early meadow rue is still in flower, and Large-flowered bellwort flowers stand out as the wavy yellow blossoms dangle downwards.

An Eastern phoebe sings its name repeatedly. Chickadees are whistling their long “fee-bee” calls, and chipping sparrows seem to be everywhere. Northern bedstraw and Virginia waterleaf coat the ground green, hiding last year’s dried leaves. Virginia bluebells pop above it, pink buds turning blue as they open.

Blue cohosh

Blue cohosh

A few blooms of White and Yellow trout lilies ad Cutleaf toothwort hide behind them.  A cluster of inch-wide lime green flowers with yellow stamen rise above the paw-print leaves of Blue cohosh. Its smooth stem is a cloudy blue color.

Against a rock warmed by the sun, I find my first Wild geranium blossom of the season, atop a cluster of fuzzy green buds tipped in purple points. May apples and nodding trilliums both are holding their flower buds tightly closed, sheltered beneath their leaves.

Wild ginger

Wild ginger

Wild ginger shows its fuzzy flowers, even as its leaves unfurl! The first few round buds of Greek valerian are starting to show. Canadian white violets, Downy yellow and Common blue violets glow in the muted forest light.

Marsh marigolds, purple violets and white anemones tumble down the bank of the small stream, where iris leaves are already a foot or more tall. Western chorus frogs call in groups from the nearby pond. Wild blue phlox and Wild strawberry are sporting their first open buds.

Maidenhair fern fiddleheads

Maidenhair fern fiddleheads

I have never seen Maidenhair fern fiddleheads before, and the wonderful Botanical Wanderings group on Facebook helped me to identify them.They form atop single, naked, reddish stems. Lady, Bracken and Christmas ferns are several inches above ground. Solomon’s seal plants are leafing out.

Eastern redbud

Eastern redbud

Yellow lady’s-slippers’ lance-shaped leaves are several inches tall, but there is no sign yet of Showy or Small yellow lady’s-slippers. Black snakeroot plants and Horsetails are a few feet tall already. Eastern redbud trees glow throughout the woodlands, its outer branches traced with pink and magenta flowers.

River birch branches are still leafless, with tiny buds appearing along twigs and many gracefully-dangling catkins. Tamaracks are coated in green needles. Cardinals call “whit whit” relentlessly, and the wind rustles through the treetops.

Non-native Pasque flowers

Non-native Pasque flowers

Non-native Pasque flowers are in full bloom in deep purple clumps in the prairie garden. Their native counterparts completed flowering several weeks ago in the bluffs and goat prairies. Prairie smoke is also in full bloom. And here finches and Song Sparrows regale with their sweet trills.

Wild turkeys are pecking at the ground beneath crab trees flowering in fluffy billows of pink, magenta and white. The stately American elm just outside the Ornamental Grass Collection is completely in bud; I am relieved to see another year where  it still seems healthy.

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 Break From The Rain

By Boak Wiesner

A momentary break during an otherwise cold rainy day let me get out in the Wildflower Garden today to reacquaint myself with some of the spring wildflowers that bloom so ephemerally each year. I hope I haven’t missed any!

Down the slippery hill and into the woods, glad I didn’t slide right into the creek. And there’s some Cutleaf Toothwort! It’s one of our first wildflowers to appear. Spring is here, despite the knife-like wind out there in the open. Glad the trees block it down here.

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

A bit farther along, I come across some Dwarf Trout Lily. I have heard of these for many years but I have never seen them – until now. Wow, does their size justify their name or what?! I have to crouch down in the wet leaves to get close.

Dwarf Trout Lily (Erythronium propullans)

Dwarf Trout Lily (Erythronium propullans)

Being cold out, there’s not a lot of insect activity and so there’s not a lot of bird activity yet. I do hear my first Nashville Warbler of the year overhead “Se-bit-se-bit-se-bit-tsee-tsee-tsee”. Hiding under its own leaves, some Large-flowered Bellwort, one of our yellow flowers. Inconspicuous but pretty.

Large-flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

Large-flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

Another common yellow flower is Marsh Marigold. Big and showy, and easy to get to, they’re a photographer’s dream. These are one of the first wildflowers that I learned way back as a teenager so to see them cheers me.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

And there’s my first Trillium of the year! So it’s growing next to the path and probably bloomed earlier than its companions because of the heat given off of the asphalt, but still, hey! – it’s a Trillium! There’s dirt on its snowy-white petals that’s been kicked up by the rain of recent days.

Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflora)

Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflora)

Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

 

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Spring Beauties

By Mary Beth Pottratz

A blush of light green glows across the woods as I enter the Arboretum. Tiny leaves are opening in the treetops under a robin’s egg blue sky. Blue jays call their funny “Tiddillit!” notes. Chickadees sing fee-bee to each other.

American hazelnut, Grey dogwood, Speckled alder and Red osier dogwood are in bud right now on the path along Green Heron Pond. Bloodroot is in fruit. Bluebell buds swell against their seams. A brilliant blue Hepatica beckons me.

Blue Hepatica

Blue Hepatica

Virginia waterleaf greens are starting to carpet the forest floor, and Pennsylvania sedge, less showy but no less beautiful than the flowers, is in full bloom. Wild leek leaves are half a foot tall! I hear Song sparrows and a Swamp sparrow as I stroll.

Spring Beauties

Spring Beauties

But my favorites are delicate Spring beauties. Their white petals are striped with pink veins. The center is splashed with a tiny splotch of egg-yolk gold. And the stamen are tipped in pink!

Bitternut hickory buds are starting to pop leaves out. A Red maple tree is dotted with fringed red flowers. Box elder sports dainty flowers and tiny leaves just opening. White shelf fungi climb ladder-like up a fallen log, and orange mushrooms dot the path.

Chris

Chris

Chris asked me to photograph her on the bench her family purchased to memorialize her parents. Also a Master Naturalist and active volunteer, we both enjoy the birds and flowers today. She photographs a Mourning cloak butterfly, and I hear my first Common yellow throat of the year!

Red osier dogwood branches and buds are magenta-red; Weeping willows sport yellow catkins and tiny leaves. They wash the landscape in watercolor reds and yellows. Marsh marigolds dot the wetland, and interesting mosses coat snags and fallen branches. Pussy willows’ soft catkins have gone to flower.

Tamarack Strobili

Tamarack Strobili

Two pairs of hooded mergansers paddle quietly on the pond. Geese argue loudly. They honk, splash, wing-flap and fly off. Tamarack needles are about 1/8” long already! Bright magenta female strobili, or seed cones, are just emerging. The male strobili are yellow and form on different twigs of the same tree.

Skunk cabbage blooms beneath tamaracks. A few send up their big green leaves. A chipping sparrow trills from the wetland, and White-breasted nuthatches laugh from the woods.

Yellow and White Trout Lilies

Yellow and White Trout Lilies

Daffodils have started to flower! Forsythia is in full bloom, telling gardeners to raise their hardy roses from their winter beds. In the Wildflower Garden, a few Dwarf trout lilies are still in bloom, some threatened by encroaching Siberian Squill. Yellow and White trout lilies are open, and False rue anemone glows in clumps. Cardinals and robins sing almost constantly. Several types of woodpeckers are drumming through the woods, and the maniacal laugh of a Pileated woodpecker echoes down the hillside.

I find several violets: Downy yellow, Common blue, Small white and possibly a Northern bog violet. Early meadow rue, Spreading Jacob’s ladder and Mayapples are up and setting their buds.

Cutleaf toothwort, Dutchman’s breeches, Wild ginger and Rue anemone are in bloom. Large-flowered bellwort, Celandine poppies and bluebells are budding and flowering.

Pussytoes

Pussytoes

In the Prairie Garden, last year’s Thimbleweed seedheads are thick with white cotton, hiding the seeds underneath. Pasque flowers, and Prairie smoke are in bloom and bud. And for a special treat? Pussytoes!

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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Spring Slowly Comes

By Greg Lecker

This Sunday morning, the sun is trying so hard to break through the light cloud cover.  Bright yellow forsythia are blooming in the display gardens behind the visitor center and near the parking lot of the shade tree exhibit. Male red-winged blackbirds have returned; and they are calling with buzzing metallic trills.

In the woodland garden, Snow Trillium is still the most obvious bloom.More flowers are on the way.  Leaves of trout lily and wild leek leaves inter-mingle amidst spent brown leaf litter.  Leaf shape is similar; yet there are ways to tell the difference.  Wild leek leaves are mostly solid green with subtle reddish streaking; trout lily leaves are mottled gray green and brown.  Trout lily flowers bloom while their leaves are visible, before the leaves disappear.  Wild leek flowers emerge only after the leaves disappear.

Trout Lily and Wild Leek Leaves

Trout Lily and Wild Leek Leaves

A pretty blue violet flower has naturalized small portions of the woodland wildflower garden.  However, Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) is native to southwestern Russia and Turkey, not Minnesota.

Siberian Squill

Siberian Squill

Woodland Poppy and Turk’s Cap Lily foliage has emerged; and their hardy foliage is unshaken by the wind and cold of fickle April.Virginia bluebell foliage is tucked cozily next to a boulder for protection.  Flowers won’t emerge until May.

Deeper within the woodland, wild ginger has emerged with folded leaves that resemble snake heads – thus lending the name “Adder Tongue” to the plant.

The woodland stream is flowing strongly, collecting any runoff from the ravine that drains the hills above.  Nearby, nestled within the boulders of the woodland seating grove, a few bloodroot flowers have emerged.   It has emerged; but the leaves and blossoms are still tightly folded and curled around the stem.

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Hepatica flowers have emerged; but they also are closed tightly against the cold and clouds.

Hepatica

Hepatica

In the Capen display garden, prairie smoke and Pasque flowers have begun blooming.  They add welcome color.  Transplanted two years ago this May, little prickly pear (Opuntia fragilis) has spread out but won’t be blooming for some time.  The warm weather forecast for next weekend will be most appreciated.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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Sunlight and Warmth

By Boak Wiesner

A warm day, that I know now was sandwiched between one of knife-like, icy winds and another of light snow, was a gift to us Minnesotans, an appetizer, if you will, of what will, eventually, hopefully, thankfully, come. Real spring.

Up high on the west side, I got a nice view of the lands surrounding the ARb. But I was struck by the clouds, first of all. They were showing the nicest example of the junction of the air temperature and the dew point, above which level the water vapor condenses into clouds. See how they have flat bottoms?

DSC_0093I’m always struck by how fantastic an example the Arb grounds are for the effects of ice and water and the landscape. Those clouds could have thickened into ones dropping snow or rain – both of which have shaped the land, the snow as glaciers and the rain, as running water that has formed rills and channels slicing up the Arb grounds. I found the catkins of willows glowing in the morning sun at the head of of such draw, or is it a hollow (or holler) or cove or ravine – so many names for that steep-sided valley so common around here.

DSC_0105This is the one that leads into the west end of Wood Duck Pond. I’ve been traipsing around this end of the Arb more and more, always finding something new to observe and speculate upon.

DSC_0111Up on the north side, the canopy of trees is so dense that little can grow on the forest floor. I was struck by the openness of the forest in this section. As I headed back to the truck, I heard the first frogs of the season! Western Chorus Frog males singing to attract their sweethearts. I only had to wait a bit until the temperature went up.

DSC_0114Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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Dripping Wet

By Greg Lecker

It’s very wet outside this morning.  The previously forecast sun is still at least twenty-four hours away.  It’s colder outside than I had expected as well.  In the annual display gardens, daffodil and tulip leaves have sprouted.

Strutting around the Sensory Garden, the resident turkeys shake their massive bodies to scatter rain drops from their dark feathers.

In the woodland garden, green foliage is pushing up through the leaf litter.  Snow trillium blooms along asphalt paths.

Snow Trillium

Snow Trillium

Rain that fell overnight is still dripping from trees.  Hemlock needles, in particular, latch onto water drops.

Hemlock Needles and Water Drops

Hemlock Needles and Water Drops

A pair of mallards lift off from a pool in the woodland.  A red-bellied woodpecker calls with a “churr-rrr”; turkeys gobble.

In the Capen Display Garden, the basal foliage of prairie smoke has spread over the center garden bed surrounding the still quiet water feature.  Here and there, a single bud has begun to open.

Prairie Smoke Bud Opens

Prairie Smoke Bud Opens

Finding other flowers requires more effort.  True to its name, Pasque flower has begun to open, marking the end of the Christian Holy Week and the celebration of the Easter holiday.  Myriad water drops decorate the hairs of the petals and foliage.

Pasque Flowers

Pasque Flowers

Flowing water attracts my interest to the serpentine ravine connecting the prairie and woodland – the wet rocks and the lush green moss.  For a moment, I weigh the wisdom of sliding down the hillside to take capture a close-up…..

Moss and Lichen on Tree Bark

Moss and Lichen on Tree Bark

….then I decide that photographing nearby tree bark is far easier.  Moss and lichen grow in a crotch between redbud branches.

On my return trip through the woodland, I notice not just the evergreen foliage of a fern here and there; but the tightly curled fiddleheads of ostrich fern.  Within a month, these will have begun to unfurl, speeding spring along.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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First Day of Spring

By Mary Beth Pottratz

A lone Red-winged blackbird greets me from the wetland as I turn into Alkire Drive.
Today is the first full day of spring: the vernal equinox. The sun crosses the equator, and length of day and night are almost equal. This 28⁰ morning air nips at my face, but climbing a hill and a bright sun warm me, too, as I rush to the woodland in anticipation.

Snow Trilliums

Snow Trilliums

I scour the dried leaves for signs of life. And I almost miss them! Tiny Snow Trilliums sport a three-petaled bloom less than an inch across. Only a few plants are in bloom, and there are a few more in bud; most are probably still covered with leaves. I jump as a Pileated woodpecker haunts the woods with its prehistoric call.

Dwarf Trout Lily pips

Dwarf Trout Lily pips

Dwarf trout lily pips are up about an inch above ground, and Yellow trout lilies are just piercing the ground in a few places. Suddenly, I hear the distinct trilled gobble of a pair of Sandhill cranes! They are not visible through the cattails and I return to my wildflower hunt.

Hepaticas

Hepaticas

Dried leaves have been pushed aside to uncover buds in a few spots. Dainty lavender Round-lobed hepaticas droop towards the ground. Last year’s leaves, which are evergreen, seem ready to call it a year. The new leaves will come up after the blooms are gone.
Tiny Yellow trout lily leaves are just starting to arise from the soil, rusty brown pointed leaves mottled with ochre yellow. These are ephemeral spring wildflowers. They will bloom only in early spring, before the trees have leafed out. Then, except for the hepatica’s evergreen foliage, the plants disappear, leaving no sign of their existence.

I meet Arb walkers Mary and Eric Baker. They, too, heard the sandhills calling earlier. Nature photographer Eric was ready at the edge of a wetland and caught the pair as they snacked their way across the wetland.

Tulips and daffodils also have spiked the tips of their leaves in many places. There are several other interesting buds peeking up out of the dirt, too immature for me to identify.

Metal Sap Bucket

Metal Sap Bucket

Maple Syruping is in full swing. I peek inside a metal bucket, and sap is dripping steadily out the spile. Most of the trees are hooked up to blue plastic bags, or their spiles are attached to blue plastic tubing that runs downhill to a collection vat.

Dark-eyed juncos peck at the ground, and their cohorts trill loudly from nearby trees. White-breasted nuthatches call, jays scold, and chickadees are calling “fee-bee” in a welcome and long-missed symphony.

There is no sign of Marsh marigolds or Skunk cabbage along the little forest stream, but inch-long tips of Blue flag iris leaves shine yellow in the sunlight. Tamaracks have swollen buds, but no sign of green needles yet.

Tamarack Tapestry

Tamarack Tapestry

I admire the black lacy tapestry the tamarack branches sketch across a blue and white sky as I head home, grateful for a beautiful spring day.

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

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