By Mary Beth Pottratz
A Great egret poses like a sentry in the wetland off Alkire Drive. Western chorus frogs and red-winged blackbirds greet me with their songs.
The matriarch of the Osterbauer clan joins five women for Mother’s Day Tea. Seated in the sun near a tulip garden, they are the perfect harbingers of spring at the Arboretum.
The air is unusually warm as I head to the forest. The woodland carries the scent of damp earth and rain, with fleeting vague floral notes. It is already late for some of the spring ephemeral wildflowers. I search the forest floor. The last few Bloodroot, Hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, Twin leaf and Snow trilliums are already starting to fade. But the Large-flowered trilliums are just starting to open their three pearly petals.
Arboretum Photography Society member Diane helps me find a tiny clump of Dwarf trout lilies in full bloom. This federally- and state-endangered flower blooms in the wild in only a few counties in southern Minnesota. The two of us stare downwards, photographing flowers.
My first Mourning cloak butterfly of the season – one of the few species that rarely migrate – flaps its dark, cream-fringed wings upwards. Mourning cloaks overwinter as adults and larva, and are among the first butterflies we see in spring.
Blue cohosh, already a couple feet tall, sports a berry-like group of buds at its leaf tips. White and yellow trout lilies wrest my gaze back down. They nod from single stems above mottled leaves.
Tiny False rue anemones pop five white petals with yellow-tipped stamens above lobed leaves.
Virginia bluebells are just starting to open. I lie down on the pavement to photograph clumps of wild ginger that already have fuzzy-coated flowers hiding at their bases. Drooping yellow Large-flowered bellwort hang beneath flower tips. Tall meadow rue’s groups of buds are almost ready to pop open.
Marsh marigolds and clumps of toothwort are in full bloom along the woodland brook. Celandine poppies are just starting to open their hairy pods into four golden-petaled blooms.
And the violets! Canada violet’s five white petals with a yellow center, pale green beard and purple stripes. Deep purple Sand violet with its creamy center spot and beard. Yellow, purple, lavender and white…
I hear a noise and look up at Rick, a landscape designer at the Arboretum, placing pine needle mulch. He helped me find a tiny clump of Spring beauties and the last Snow trillium in bloom.
My neck aches from staring downwards and I stretch. Looking up, I see the sun lower in the sky. Must be pretty late. I’ll have to return soon. So many flowers, so little time.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.