Above and Below

By Greg Lecker

Even after the rain overnight, bolts of lightning accentuate the murky clouds. I arrive at the edge of Spring Peeper Meadow just after sunrise. From behind swirling clouds, a brightening cerulean sky emerges and I realize that it will be a beautiful day! Racing the moving clouds and fading light spectacular, I dash off a “quick paint” to capture my impressions.

Bright Day Overcomes Dark Clouds

Bright Day Overcomes Dark Clouds

Everywhere, I’m surrounded by dripping wet foliage. Bright sunshine sparkles off the dewy, dripping moisture. In particular, non-native four-o-clocks capture my attention in the way that webs of water bridge the spidery stems and paper-like petal/sepal corolla (flower assembly). Beads of water create a sparkling outlines of grass blades backlit with morning sky.

Four-O’Clocks and Grass Blades

Four-O’Clocks and Grass Blades

If you’ve ever seen flowering red dogwood in the home, business, or garden landscape, you’ve noticed its umbels (umbrella-like forms) of bell-shaped flowers, its red stems and its pointed oval leaves. A similar looking plant is Indian hemp. But Indian hemp offers an added attraction of a life surface that beads water beautifully.

Indian Hemp with Rain Water Beads

Indian Hemp with Rain Water Beads

I investigate the boardwalk which has been closed for the past year. It appears that repairs are underway. I hope that the walkway and the shallow wetland are both restored soon. These are some of my favorite features of the Arboretum. On my walk back towards the parking lot, I notice red fruit on low brambles. Raspberry fruits are ripening!

Raspberry Ripens

Raspberry Ripens

I consider a walk through the prairie grasses towards the main body of the Arboretum; but the dewy grasses that would envelope my tennis shoes and socks in soaking moisture discourage me. Maybe on a later visit, when the warm season prairie grasses have grown, a drier day will be more favorable for hiking. Looking further on the path, I notice broadleaf plantain and white clover. These non-natives, and especially the plantain (also known as “white man’s footprint”) grow where foot traffic may have transplanted their seeds. And, these stands are especially lush – the result of less foot traffic now because of the boardwalk closure. Plantain leaves have interesting wavy leaf edges and spike-shaped flower – features that one wouldn’t normally notice. White clover has a spherical white cluster of small florets and a three-leaflet clover-like foliage on thin curving stems.

Broadleaf Plantain and White Clover

Broadleaf Plantain and White Clover

If nothing else, my early morning visit reminds me to look up as well as down to find nature’s wonders.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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