Summer’s Last Hurrah?

By Greg Lecker

Not often is one witness to the change from one season to the next.  My last Arboretum came close to sensing this phenomenon.  During the previous week, summer-like high temperatures ranged from the low to mid-70s.    Friday’s “Red in morning – Sailor’s warning” sunrise foreshadowed the coming cold front.  Soft morning breezes yielded to blustery gusts.  Friday morning’s shorts and short sleeved shirts were exchanged for Saturday’s jeans and sweatshirts.

Do the orange flowers of the 2013 Arboretum color scheme foretell of the flames that may soon blaze through the Arboretum sugarbush forest?   Whether the spring moisture or the summer drought will exert greater influence on maple foliage color remains to be seen.

At the Sensory Garden, crabapple leaves are turning to match the color of their fruits.  Fallen leaves decorate the walking paths of the Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden.   As I shuffle along the asphalt, my feet scatter a large crop of fallen acorns.  I wonder whether this is a “good mast year”.  No, I’m not referring to sailors again.   “Mast” in botanical terms refers to the nuts or fruits of trees and shrubs.  A “good mast year” refers to a season in which there is heavy production of wild nuts or fruits. 

Speaking of fruits, I see that False Solomon’s Seal (Smilicina racemosa) berries have ripened to red while foliage has lightened to tan. 

False Solomons Seal

False Solomons Seal

Leaning over the path, the tall arching branching stems of Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) are heavily laden with developing seed pods.   Deep in the woodland, the pond’s surface is completely covered in duckweed.

Black Gum Leaves

Black Gum Leaves

Within the Shade Tree Collection, the native North American Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) displays colorful glossy leaves accented with small black berries. 

From the prairie parking lot, I enjoy the tan-colored grasses, the golden asters, and the rusty-orange maple (not oak, I verified).

Maple Savanna with Golden Asters

Maple Savanna with Golden Asters

Dwarf or Low Bush Honeysuckle and Switchgrass offer contrasts in texture and color.

Honeysuckle and Swithgrass

Honeysuckle and Swithgrass

Stubbornly blooming amidst the rocks and screes of the Capen display garden, Harebell attracts my attention to the gurgling water feature.  Accompanied by the running water of the ravine creek, I enter the woodland and walk downhill. 

Canada Geese honk overhead.  Their “V”-shaped formation is vaguely visible through the tree canopy.   The strong winds dislodge a small dead ash branch.  Its fall slowed by the underbrush, it lands next to the path.  Sensing a chill in the air, I depart to return home. 

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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