By Greg Lecker
Casual visitors to the Arboretum will appreciate the dwarf iris now blooming at the Oswald Visitor Center entry and the daffodils in bud near the Snyder Building foundation. I encourage you to venture just a bit farther to witness arrival of the season in many native plants. In the Green Heron Pond Wetland, in the Grace Dayton Woodland Garden, and in the Capen Prairie display garden, spring has finally arrived!
A short walk, made even shorter when Three Mile Drive opens to vehicles in the near future, leads one to the Sensory Garden. From there one can explore a woodland of Sugar Maple, Hemlock, Blue Beech, and Kentucky Coffeetree. Looking down, I see white and pale colored wildflowers stand in contrast to the brown and tan leaf litter.
Snow Trillium is positively fanatical in its mastery of mathematical multiples of “three”. The Schoolhouse Rock “ear worm”, “Three is a Magic Number” comes to mind. Three green leaves, three green sepals opening to unfurl three white petals, and finally, a three-part female stigma awaiting the contribution from six anthers bearing the male pollen.
Liver-Leaf or Sharp-Lobed Hepatica, which shares an etymological root with the liver disease, was named for the leaf lobes that resemble the organ. Flowers bloom in white, pink, and pale purple hues.
With purplish-red and greenish-violet curled leaves, the emerging foliage of Virginia Waterleaf resembles miniature mesclun. Other emerging plants include Trout Lily, Wild Leek, Solomon Seal, Allegheny Foamflower, and Dutchman’s Breeches.
A Blue Jay screams “Jayyy! Jayyy!” as if to underscore my surprise at discovering Pasque Flowers blooming in the Capen Prairie Garden. Reminding one of the cultivated crocus, the pale purple bloom distinguishes itself with pointed petals covered with white fuzzy hairs as if to provide needed warmth.
I walk over to Blue Heron Pond to explore its wetland. In nasally voices, Canada Geese honk their happiness at being able to dabble at the bottom of open water. An ermine-white mantle of snow still cloaks the beds of the orchid queens, Showy Lady Slippers. Within the freshly thawed water of the wetland, I find a few flowers of Skunk Cabbage and Marsh Marigold in bud. Returning to the Visitor Center via the boardwalk, I’m delighted by the sight of blooming Pussy Willow twigs waving like magic wands ushering in warmth. Winter is really over.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.