Nature Notes

Once in a Blue Moon

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Crickets whirr all around me as I enter the Spring Peeper Meadow. Frogs trill from the wetland. Swallows chatter as they sweep above the grassline.

The little parking lot is full. A couple strolls off slowly, fingers intertwined. A family sets up cameras – daughter Julia is having her senior picture taken. A trio of teens rest at the outlook.


The bright sunshine, a warm breeze, and bees on the goldenrod speak of summer.  A gentlemanly grasshopper in his green and yellow suit with black stripes looks at me quizzically from his grasp on a flower stem.

But signs of an impending autumn already abound. The pastel shades of midsummer flowers have given way to gold, rust, tan and brown. Lush green cattails, sedges, iris and grasses form a background for bright yellow sunflowers and goldenrods. Shrubs are tinging shades of clay.  Sumac leaves sport red edges to match its berry spikes.

Milkweeds are tipped in yellow, heavy with green, bristly pods. Swaths of brown nutlets sprout atop rushes. Petalless coneflowers and monarda are now dry globes in varying shades of browns and grays.

But there – deep in tall grasses – a flash of blue is caught in the sun.

Bottle Gentian

Bottle gentian! That lavender-blue flower that always looks like a bud. I love the way the closed petals capture the sunlight, holding it “bottled” from within.

Arrowheads are in full flower. Their waxy white blooms, each with a yellow pom pom in the middle, sway from a stem next to arrow-shaped leaves.

A high-pitched, fast jibber-jabber muskrat conversation is carrying on just a few feet from the boardwalk. I giggle aloud at the cartoon-like sound, watching the telltale shaking of cattails as they move around.

A light breeze hits, and a sound like water running startles me. I look around me, and then up. It’s a quaking aspen tree, its leaves dancing and brushing against each other in liquid sound.

Surprise! I find a yellow gentian.  Olive green veins the creamy white flower. Unlike bottle gentian, its petals are loosely open at the top. It’s been a blue moon since I have seen them last.

Blue Moon

Truly a blue moon! This Friday, Aug. 31, will be the second full moon this month. As the sun draws its light away from the landscape, I take one last photo to catch a moon that is almost blue.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer Program is available at

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