By Greg Lecker
Arriving at the Arboretum, I’m happy to see signs of the coming spring: tree limbs freshly shorn from parking lot and roadway trees. Late winter pruning and maple syrup time signs remind me that we are on the warming and brightening side of winter. I decide to walk Three Mile Drive in the opposite direction from my usual routine.
Mother Nature has painted a graceful arc of open water around the Iris pond.
A Gray Squirrel takes advantage of Tamarack tree limbs lying on the ground. It guards its harvest – a cone with seeds ripe for the picking. Like my dog, the squirrel passes cone from paws to mouth each time I try to approach a bit closer.
As I enjoy the fact that snow and ice have melted away from Three Mile Drive; I detect a welcome fragrance. Kneeling down to investigate, I discover that at least one scent ingredient is the moist mud. Hoof marks in the soft soil demonstrate that other animals share my appreciation of the soft soil. White Tailed Deer might be seeking either minerals or the newly uncovered, greening turf grass. The maze fence protects arborvitae shrubs from the hungry deer. Another nearby fence marks the construction site of a future shuttle bus stop.
Signs of the “forest or woodland effect” are evident in the pattern of snow melt surrounding both deciduous and coniferous trees. Reflection from snow onto dark trunks heightens the amount of solar energy available. The dark mass of a tree first absorbs and then radiates this heat to melt snow in a lopsided oval favoring its south side. The roadway mass performs in a similar manner.
The sculpted masses of six-foot-high snow drifts remind me of mountain chains I glimpsed during a recent flight. In general, the lack of color heightens one’s perception of land forms and the tracery of leafless trees.
Even the sun’s game of hide-and-seek behind the thickening clouds of an approaching predicted winter storm cannot dampen my enthusiasm.
In the Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, atop the frozen woodland pool, the dark ice below is gradually showing through the thinning snow cover. The woodland stream coursing below the snow is especially audible at the small weir dam and grating. A different flowing design forms the structure and surface of a fallen paper wasp nest.
Newly visible green moss decorates a stone wall this St. Patrick’s Day. Nature will be wearin’ o’ the green in no time!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.