By Mary Beth Pottratz
A single cicada saws incessantly from a tree, and bees drone in and out of blooms. Birds are settled down to their afternoon naps. Even the geese have tucked their necks under-wing.
Dragonflies and damselflies dart lazily overhead. Monarchs and skippers flit from one clump of plants to another, never really landing at all. A Widow Skimmer Dragonfly stares back at me as I study its tattered wings.
Piquant waves of wild bergamot leaf scent the warm air. Its pale lavender petals are dwarfed by intense blue spikes of vervain. The motion of the insects, the perfumed air, the buzzing bees and cicada combine to lull me into deep relaxation.
The scene is like a Monet. Pastel shades of mauve Joe-Pye Weed and the cherry-pink two-tone of Swamp Milkweed are set off by bunches of white boneset. Behind them, brown nutlets tip the spikes of sedges in long bands that run lengthwise through the wetland.
Leaf and flower forms are punctuated by graceful arcs of cattail leaves and broad fans of sword-shaped iris leaves. Most grasses are in flower now, and big bluestem dangles tiny yellow flowers blushed with muted red from its tips.
Shoreline masses of golden sunflowers, sprays of lavender alliums, and deep purple prairie ironweed ring the wetland near the Iris Garden.
Mountain mint is in flower, and perfumes the warm summer air. I crush a leaf and inhale its heady aroma. It pulls me out of my midsummer daydream.
Vivid red spikes of cardinal flower stand out from cute little white turtleheads. I lift and release the top of a flower to watch the turtle “snap!”
Golden yellow flowers are taking over the midsummer stage.
Cupplants tower over my head, topped with sprays of sunflowers. Small pools are created in the leaf pockets that surround the stem. These cups catch rain, insects, petals and seeds.
Sneezeweed, identifiable by the odd way its leaves clasp the stem, sports gold three-lobed petals. St. John’s Wort’s yellow flowers are fading to pods already. White American Water Horehound and Daisy Fleabane play off the yellow flowers.
Clumps of tall goldenrods are already setting their buds. I spot the very first purple aster of the year! A striking blue damselfly poses for me on a seedhead.
Bottlebrush sedge, that favorite of butterflies, waterfowl and swamp sparrows, is in full fruit. A striking Great Black Wasp with its Iridescent blue-black wings searches for an insect snack, such as crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, or that droning cicada.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.