By Mary Beth Pottratz
A curvy pink sliver of moon peeks through my blinds before dawn, escorting the last day of spring offstage. It waits patiently to usher in the first day of summer this afternoon.
And an unusual spring this was. Would the Spring Peeper Meadow be washed out from our deluge of rains this June?
A song sparrow calls from the tip of a bare shrub, well above the greens below. Lush vegetation, shrubs and stands of trees seemed unfazed by the recent monsoons. Dragonflies dart around my head. A concert of crickets, western chorus frogs, and a snoring northern leopard frog tell me these denizens of the low ground survived.
Common yellowthroats and red-winged blackbirds seem to be answering each other, and asora rail laughs at my stretching, ducking and posturing as I try to spy it through dense wetland growth.
Common milkweeds, those venerable protectors of monarch larvae, are festooned with pompons of buds just waiting for a dry enough day to open and spill their luscious scent.
Northern bedstraw blooms in graceful poufs of white. Lime green grasses glow in sunshine. Cattails and sunflowers, cup plants and pale green willows, even deep hunter spruce trees all brush the landscape in a riot of greens.
The wetland near the Iris Garden shows off blue flag iris and alum root flowers. Tree frogs call from the woodland edge, and a brilliant indigo bunting whistles its fast, double syllabled song from a treetop high above. Prairie roses bring their delicate single blooms to eye level.
Although flattened grasses, sedges and flowers line the edge of the woodland creek,theirprone stems seem ready to spring back upright. The deep roots of native plants naturally resist erosion and flooding, unlike the shallow roots of non-native flowers and lawns. You can see a comparison of root systems here: http://www.nature.com/scitable/content/image-showing-the-diversity-of-root-system-97971735.
Mayapple flowers have evolved into round green fruits. Large yellow lady’s slippers are in their final round but the delicate columbines are still blooming.
On the prairie, I marvel at the mathematical precision of narrow-leaved coneflowers’sseedheads, just starting to show petals. A few wild quinine plants already sport flowers that look like miniature heads of cauliflower. Lead plants have silvery buds waving from their tips.
This first day of summer heralds a plethora of plants in bloom:Tall meadow rue, sumac, Canada anemone, flowering spurge, daisy fleabane,prairie phlox, yarrow, golden Alexanders, slender beardtongue and large-flowered beardtongue are giving their shows. Thimbleweeds are a full two feet tall, with petals already dropping.
American hazelnuts are sporting their green flowers if you look hard enough to find them. Ohio spiderwort buds have just split to reveal deep purple petals tightly closed beneath the hull. Prairie blazing stars stand 3 to 4 feet tall, already tipped with flower buds.
Tall spires of white wild indigo rise above the prairie and glow in the sunset, giving me hope that the land will soon dry out in the coming summer days.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.