By Mary Beth Pottratz
Balmy 80⁰, light wind, and very low humidity make for a wonderful day to walk the Arboretum. Dragonflies and damselflies dart in all directions. I follow them past banks of white five-petaled Canada anemone that glow against their deeply lobed green leaves.
They lead me into the woodland garden, where a beautiful White avens dangles in front of me. Five green, pointed sepals and five white, rounded petals curve back to make room for the green stamens in its center. Pointed buds resembling a child’s play top dangle from nearby stems. An Indigo bunting repeats its two-syllable notes.
Jewelweed is hip-high in the woodland, but I see no buds or flowers yet on this hummingbird favorite.Showy Lady’s-slippers have bloomed and dried to papery brown. Spider webs glint in patches of sun.
Tall meadow rue flowers have no petals at all! Four white sepals open wide, from which hang small tassels of white stamens tipped in butter-yellow like wind chimes. They sway and ripple in the breeze. There are no chimes, but a Common yellowthroat calls “wicketywicketywickety” and robins sing “pip, pip, cheerio.”
A buzzing bumblebee accompanies me through the woodland, droning slowly from leaf to leaf. Odd that it lands on leaves – not flowers. A closer look reveals wings that stick out from its body, and eyes towards the front of its head. It is a fly, not a bee.
Large-flowered bellwort have pyramidal green pods dangling from stem tips. May apples hide oval green fruits under their leaves. “Fee bee,” sings a chickadee.
Huge Jack-in-the-pulpit leaves stop me in my tracks! The flower petals below have withered away. A thick cone of green berries stands where Jack once preached.
A spiketail dragonfly rests on a tree trunk. He flits away, pulling me towards the wetland. There, Blue flag iris is in full bloom. Green bulrush’s flowers are a soft, fuzzy green. River bulrush flowers erupt in a brown explosion. Giant bur-reed shows off its green, bur-like flowers below, small white pompoms above the stem, and tiny round green buds at the tip.
A song sparrow serenades me from a willow. Daisy fleabane, masses of soft pink Crown vetch, and flowering spurge have started to bloom. White wild indigo stands tall above the prairie. Bright orange Butterflyweed pops out. Thimbleweed only has a few blossoms left; most already sport their tall cylindrical green thimbles. Dwarf bush honeysuckle has just begun to show its yellow flowers.
Large beardtongue, Lead plant, several coneflowers and Spiderwort are all showing off ripening buds. White Wild quinine and golden Smooth oxeye dot the prairie. I smell a sweet scent: Common milkweed in full flower.
Pagoda dogwoods have green berries. Solomon’s seal flowers are drying beneath the arching stem, hanging listlessly from round fruits. Red baneberries now light up the woods with bright red berries where flowers once bloomed. A Red-eyed vireo calls from the woods, and a tree frog replies.
Tom Turkey and family are pecking under the crabapples. He puffs out his feathers, doubling in size. His tail fans open and he calls “gobble-obble-obble-obble-obble”.
One variety of basswood has already started blooming. I stop to enjoy the sight of bees and pollinating flies visiting its fragrant flowers.
Hours have passed. Yellow sweet clover glows in the late afternoon sun. Crickets sing and red-winged blackbirds call as I head home.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.