By Greg Lecker
Our June rains continue; and with them, winds! But for patient Minnesotans ready to pounce at the slightest brightening of skies come rewards. Just after lunch on Father’s Day, overcast conditions yield to partly cloudy skies. Arriving at the Arboretum, I’m happy that my vehicle has all-wheel drive and high clearance – because the weekend’s torrential rains gouged gullies in the construction zone that is the future new entry gate. Bu, fear not, visitors – by the time I depart several hours later, gravel had been spread to level out the roadway. Only a facility such as the Arboretum would mobilize resources to make such spontaneous remedy on a Sunday!
A similar degree of stewardship is demonstrated on the path below the composting toilets of the Sensory Garden – this time, by two pairs of Canada Geese in their own celebration of Father’s Day. A precocious set of goslings and their watchful guardians, dined on turf grass, grazing from seated and standing positions. Occasionally, a gosling extends a stubby wing – impossibly graceless in its absence of primary and secondary feathers. The circular extent of their necks is measured in the “crop circle” that is faintly visible in the freshly sheared turf. Adjacent to this older, bolder brood is a timid, younger clutch that largely rests on the path.
I find a less furry critter in Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden. A medium large snapping turtle pauses on the edge of the asphalt path. Whether it is taking a rest after laying eggs or simply exploring the waterlogged bottomlands and swollen vernal ponds, I do not know. On my return walk around the woodland loop, I find that the turtle has crossed the path. After a few moments rest, the turtle retreats into the relative concealment of the thick ground cover. Amidst the rich habitat, I also observe a toad, chickadees, flying goldfinches, butterflies and dragonflies.
The native woodland garden has advanced beyond its spring ephemerals into the bold blooms of Penstemon and Cow Parsnip. Walking over to the Green Heron pond, I pause at the tamaracks that lie at the edge of the wetland just beyond the Ordway Shelter. I find Golden Alexanders flowering amid the growing masses of a small patch of prairie plants. How wonderful that the native gardens have been expanded beyond the bounds of their original display areas!
I walk along the asphalt path through the shady woodland edge and marvel at the signs of great water movement during our recent rains. Small gullies have been sculpted amidst the ground cover. Thankfully, underground pipes divert the water under the path. At the transition between the asphalt and boardwalk paths, I find that both the Yellow Lady’s Slipper and Showy Lady’s Slipper are blooming in this shady cool microclimate. Come on out to the Arboretum within the next week if you want to see these native orchids!
Rising water has soaked the engineered path that snakes through the wetland edge just off the boardwalk. The wood chip path sinks under my feet; and water threatens but does not rise to the soles of my still-dry shoes. Visible from this path or from the more accessible boardwalk, Blue Flag Iris blooms amidst the very watery world of this juicy June!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.