By Mary Beth Pottratz
Daffodils and jonquils have popped up in a few places at the Arb. A grand clump of forsythia shines bright yellow, and even a few tulips are open in the rock garden.
But I rush past them to the woodland garden, hunting spring ephemeral wildflowers this late afternoon. I am richly rewarded.
A few tiny snow trilliums are still open. Soft white petals of false rue anemone are spotted with its gold pollen. Are there any pollinators out yet? Just then a loud buzz rushes the side of my head, brushing my hair. It was big. Maybe hummingbird big! Or was it a queen bee seeking a nest? Either way, pollinators are out!
At the entrance to the woodland garden, a group of Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lilies grow lushly at the base of a tree. These endangered flowers only grow naturally in three southeastern counties in Minnesota. Kudos to the Arboretum staff who have – with permits – coddled them into bloom here.
The larger White trout lily’s leaves are evident throughout the woodland garden, but I find only one blooming. Tiny clumps of Twinleaf are also in bud. Purple stems and bud scales, and even purple-tinged leaves, set off a single bright white ball atop a single stem.
I am pleased to find a sharp-lobed hepatica. Its lavender-blue flowers not fully open, and last year’s brittle leaves are still attached to its base. A single white bloodroot blossom is held warm by its two enclosing leaves. None are fully open on this cloudy and drizzly day. A drift of fallen petals surrounds the base.
Virginia bluebells are in bud, and a fun sight too! Tiny, lavender-pink petal balls form a starry pattern as they try to push their way through dark green bud scales. Early meadow rue is also in bud, and Spreading Jacob’s Ladder, too. The water-stain leaves of Virginia waterleaf form large patches throughout the forest, and violet leaves abound, but no buds yet for either.
Large flowered bellwort droops its yellow blossoms in a few plants, and many others are merely starting to push out of the dirt. Dutchman’s breeches wave their pantaloon-flags here and there. A few tiny buckbean flowers are almost hidden among anemones.
A heavenly scent drifts through the woods. Could it be Marsh marigolds? Several clumps are just opening to show off the golden flowers. Interesting lichens expand in the moist air.
Birds are strangely silent in the woods. Wild leek leaves are already a foot tall. The peculiar flower of Wild ginger lays on bare ground to tease ants into visiting and pollinating it.
While the Skunk cabbage flowers are withering, its leaves are already springing above it. May apple buds are starting to push through the center of the two leaves, but most are not even sprouted yet!
As I leave the woodland garden, a pair of barred owls call from up the hill, “Who, who, who cooks for you all?” Trees covered with magnolia flowers perfume the air.
Driving past the wetland on Alkire drive, I stop to listen to nature’s concert. Red-winged blackbirds call “konklaREE!!” to declare their territories. Western chorus frogs – dozens of them – sound like many people running their thumbs down a comb. Some hidden birds are whistling, and a wood frog quacks from the wetland edge.
Although my camera can capture a likeness, I can’t save these scents and sounds. And within a few days or weeks or months they will be gone. Like the wildflowers, they too are ephemeral.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.