By Greg Lecker
Spring is here at last! The honking of Canada Geese attract my attention. In addition to those flying overhead, three geese are perched atop the Oswald building. How strange! Red-winged Blackbirds call with raspy metallic trills. Northern Cardinals sing their pleasing melodies.Daffodils and blue Siberian squill bloom in drifts along the drive and the hillside next to the Ordway shelter respectively.
In the Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, green sprouts and leaves are displacing brown leaves and bare soil. How remarkable that emerging stems and leave possess the strength to thrust upward through brown leaves that are pasted together on the woodland floor. Here and there, solid glossy wild leek leaves and dull mottled trout lily leaves mingle in drifts.
Many spring wildflowers are in bud; and some are even in bloom. In particular, Dutchman’s breeches catch my eye. Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) is just beginning to open. Perhaps in some southern areas of the county, Thomas Jefferson’s namesake blooms nearer to the April 13 birthday of this former president and botanist. A few scattered hepatica are beginning to open their buds. Wild violets add their blue-violet hues to the widening color palette. Yellow buds of woodland poppy are glowing near the woodland rivulet. Anemone shines in the backlight of the sun.
On my way from the woodland garden to the prairie, I stop to admire the white flowers of magnolias. Then I notice the somewhat inconspicuous flowers of a bur oak blooming in the foreground right under my nose. Oak flowers are small and knobby; and from the center of the flower cluster,emerging oak leaves are just barely visible.
The aroma of a recently extinguished campfire and the sight of a black seared landscape reach me simultaneously as I come upon the prairie and Capen Display Garden. I’m happy that Rich and Arboretum staff were able to shoehorn a controlled burn amidst the prior week’s winds. In no time, flushes of green growth will tint the charcoal. The growing crowns of prairie plants and grasses lie protected under the burned growth that remains from last year. Just recently, I heard a radio story describe how the growing crown of corn similarly remains under the soil until after the corn shoot shows five or six leaves. Thus it is that nature has the means to protect the growing heads of plants from frost as well as fire.
The week’s expected warmth and, hopefully some rain, will further speed the greening of spring. Spring is rushing in; and I must be rushing out – home to complete weekend chores.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.