By Mary Beth Pottratz
Big billows of cumulonimbus clouds stand out against a deep blue sky. Cooler temperatures, sunbeams peeking through clouds and a freshly rain-washed breeze energize me.
Pale lavender obedient plants, Black-eyed Susans, Gray coneflowers and pink Turtleheads line Alkire Drive, in addition to many colorful annuals. Out in the wetland, Prairie ironweed’s rich brown seedheads are fluffy with hairs attached to seeds.
A dozen turkeys peck on the lawn. Tamaracks are thick with woody cones more than an inch around. Crows and blue jays call, and chickadees sing short “fee-bee” from the trees.
Bunches of deep purple New England asters and fluffy boughs of Goldenrod are alive with bees. Black-eyed Susans and Blue lobelia are in full bloom. A goldfinch flits past. An olive warbler with bright yellow undertail coverts and a black stripe through its eye darts among tree branches in a snag. He is chased away by a song sparrow. I had believed them to be gone south already…
The shoreline plantings are lush along the edge of the Iris Garden pond. No evidence of geese underfoot proves just one benefit of this beautiful native garden! The deep roots prevent erosion, maintains water quality and absorb excess nutrients from the garden. All that, in addition to hosting many pollinators, songbirds, and beneficial insects. Meadowhawk dragonflies dart ahead and back to me in a game of tag.
Giant sunflowers glow in late afternoon sunlight. I breathe in deep the fresh, minty-licorice scent of Anise hyssop flowers. A barred owl hoots its song in the distance. The last of Joe Pye weed, Cardinal flower and Bee balm are in bloom. Tall green seed spikes of hoary vervain stand tall over the wetland. Puffs of White asters and golden Smooth oxeye flowers dot the shore.
At Spring Peeper Meadow, pink smartweed blooms in wide swathes in the wetland. Boneset’s white seedheads are tinging brown. And below that, Sneezeweed’s yellow tri-lobed petals are shriveling to brown, leaving the round seedhead alone at the top of each stem.
Blue lobelia, freshly-bloomed Jewelweed and Nodding bur-marigold are in full bloom. Jewelweed is another hummer favorite, but it must be too windy for them right now. Evening primrose’s four-petaled flowers are closing up shop for the night. Gray dogwoods are loaded with white berries on red stemmed-clusters. Arrowhead flowers transformed into bright green balls stick straight out from the flower stalk.
I seek out my favorite: Bottle gentians glow blue in the slanting daylight. The petals are tightly closed at the top of the flower, and only strong, large bumblebees can push them open to reach their nectar reward – and pollinate the gentian! Cream gentians stand out bright against their dark, pointed leaves.
Sumac leaves tinged lightly red and fading sunlight remind me of the advance of time and seasons. I head home along the lush green trail – until next time!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.