Looking High and Low

By Greg Lecker

A sunny but cool 48 degree morning steered me towards Green Heron Pond. I walk through the Ordway Shelter and happen to notice a tribute to Arboretum donors – intricately carved directly into the overhead beam! Placed on the edge of the shelter overlooking the wetland, benches beckon one to bask in the warming eastern sunlight. I decline the invitation and walk along the sunny northern edge. Right away I marvel at the early color change of the tamaracks (larch) nearest the visitor center buildings. The lowest needles are a fading green, but most of the tree has turned yellow gold. The branches and small cones are dark against a blue sky.

Yellow Tamaracks
Yellow Tamaracks

The green hues of the woodland edge are fading. The foliage of white snakeroot, a favorite woodland native, has turned a pale chartreuse and its formerly white flowers have burst into fluffy tawny seed heads.

Wurtele Boardwalk
Wurtele Boardwalk

As I enter the Wurtele Boardwalk, I marvel at the shiny textures of the grasses and rushes. Cattail foliage is turning yellow from its base upwards, even as its frost nipped tips are turning brown and wilting.

Shiny Stripes
Shiny Stripes

The waning moon is a faint cameo in a deep blue western sky. Over the past week, I’ve watched it rise and set later each day. When it is next full, the weather and the landscape will certainly have turned. The moon seems to bob amidst the foliage that waves in a welcome southern wind.

Turning my attention to a narrow path, I notice that cattail seed down has blanketed the ground – mirroring the frosty white that is now brightening green lawns on early mornings.

Further along the boardwalk, two common trees of this wetland flank the walkway. The quaking aspen is turning yellow; this tamarack has not yet reached peak color. That will come between now and the end of October.

Tree Canopy
Tree Canopy

A leafless tree snag is especially intriguing with the raking light of a low sun. It is this morning light that accentuates the wetland textures. How could I have overlooked all the forms and interest of this place in favor of the showy blooms of the woodland and prairie collections?!

I reach the end of the boardwalk and search in vain for orchid foliage to remind me of their gorgeous flowers. But the many photographers toting tripods and zoom lenses remind me that the view is upwards – towards the color change that is drifting downward from the top of the tree canopy! Turning back towards a flickering light, I am further cheered by the sparkling sun.

Woodland Sparkle
Woodland Sparkle

On your next visit to the Arboretum or your favorite natural area, make sure to look up and down.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.


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