By Mary Beth Pottratz
The cheeky warble of an eastern bluebird greets me at the Arboretum today! Perched atop a tall tree at the entrance to Three Mile Drive, it announces to all that spring is here. A bank of forsythia is so thick with yellow flowers that I couldn’t see the cardinals calling from within. Magnolia perfume drifts on the breeze of this sunny, 67° Saturday afternoon, and honeybees are buzzing around its huge blooms.
Even the wildflowers give witness to the bluebird’s claim – but you need to look down. The tallest flowers are the six-inch snow trilliums, in full flower and scattered throughout the woodland gardens. Leafless, hairy stems topped with both blue and pink hepaticas glow in the forest light.
A few brave false rue anemones show their tiny white blooms; a single stem of Dutchman’s breeches waves five pantaloon-shaped flowers in the breeze like fairy laundry. Pasque flowers have already shot their buds above ground, their furry, narrow leaves twisting around the closed petals, ready to open. A few bloodroot are just starting to peek above their curled leaves. And even Pennsylvania sedge carries its tiny yellow flower stalks high throughout the woodland.
The dwarf trout lily also holds its flower stalk and tiny bud above ground today, but holds its petals closed. This beautiful but endangered flower grows only in a few counties in southeastern Minnesota, and the Arboretum is fortunate to have received permission years ago to transplant a few, which are otherwise illegal to disturb.
This amazing lily is similar to Minnesota’s typical white trout lily, but a smaller version, with an open flower only ¼ to ½” across. It produces little or no seed compared to white trout lilies, but propagates by runners underground. It is generally found near the Cannon River, and has specific elevation and other requirements that cause it to be rare, and results in failed transplants. It is wonderful to see them persisting at the Arboretum!
Many more wildflowers promise to appear very soon. There are round golden buds on marsh marigolds, and iris leaves are six inches tall in the streambed. Wild geranium sprouts a few inches above ground, and Virginia waterleaf leaves are scattered everywhere. Yellow trout lily leaves are starting to come up and even wild ginger is unfurling its hairy ball of leaves.
But if the wildflowers don’t wake you up to spring, the birds will. Chickadees and finches are out calling everywhere. Male red-winged blackbirds are staking out their territory, still waiting for their females to arrive. I even spot some tree sparrows singing lustily – today it was very hard to leave the Arb!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.