By Mary Beth Pottratz
Red-winged blackbirds call from the wetland as I enter Alkire Drive. Wide swaths of may apples raise their umbrella-like leaves in a layer a foot above ground. Hiding beneath this canopy are cream-colored buds and even a few blossoms springing from the branched stems.
The spicy sweet scent of Wild blue phlox draws me into the forest. Marsh marigolds are still in bloom.Wild strawberry and Large-flowered trillium are flowering at peak. And birds are calling everywhere – chickadees, robins, nuthatches, cardinals.
Prairie smoke is in full bloom. To me the flowers resemble buds. Cerise balls droop from each stem, five slender bracts flaying out from the base. Once pollinated, the stem will straighten and petals and sepals will extend upwards like a spray of pink water. From a distance, these seedheads will resemble rosy smoke.
There is no trace of the Dwarf Trout Lily’s mottled leaves, and only a few White Trout Lily leaves inch above the greening forest floor. Pasque flowers are mostly gone. The few that remain have burst into seedheads.
But the ground they graced is now carpeted with violets of many kinds: Common blue, Canadian white, Downy yellow, some light blue violets, white speckled with purple, and more. Greek valerian has just started to pop out its lavender posies. Meadow rue looks as though it will be setting its buds soon. Maidenhair ferns are six inches tall, and ostrich ferns three feet!
Purplish Blue cohosh buds are opening into puce green petals from a green, yellow and white base. Such interesting colors!
Suddenly, a barred owl calls from deeper in the woods. Its mate replies, “Who, who, who cooks for you all?” The calls continue as I wander through the Wildflower Garden. How unusual for owls to call in early afternoon!
Wild geranium leaves, many with fresh buds, carpet the forest floor. Only a few have started flowering.
False Solomon’s seal is setting its green cauliflower-like buds at its stem-tips. False rue anemone’s five-petaled flowers glow against dark woodland leaves. Most form star-shaped seed clusters already.
Red columbine’s smart red spurs and yellow petals hang upside down from drooping stems. Large-flowered bellwort and Early meadow rue are also in full flower.
Along the dry creek bed I spot Skunk cabbage leaves. A few weeks ago I searched in vain for this unusual (and stinky!) flower. With its spathe now withered, huge leaves are starting to shoot up, marking the very place I searched for it. Skunked again!
Bloodroot pods are almost hidden by the now-large leaves. Sticky-willy’s tiny four-petaled blooms and false rue anemone’s five white petals with dainty yellow-tipped stamens poke out between violets and trilliums.
Small and large yellow lady’s slippers’ stems are above ground, but are not yet setting their buds. Jack in the pulpits are freshly opened. Virginia bluebells are starting to open their purple buds and blue bells. Bare branches of witch hazel sport twigs with new buds that are just about to burst open.
I could wander here for hours if I had the time. As I walk away, I find fluffy yellow goslings paddling with their parents in the pond near the Iris garden. And spring carries on.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.