By Mary Beth Pottratz
A blush of light green glows across the woods as I enter the Arboretum. Tiny leaves are opening in the treetops under a robin’s egg blue sky. Blue jays call their funny “Tiddillit!” notes. Chickadees sing fee-bee to each other.
American hazelnut, Grey dogwood, Speckled alder and Red osier dogwood are in bud right now on the path along Green Heron Pond. Bloodroot is in fruit. Bluebell buds swell against their seams. A brilliant blue Hepatica beckons me.
Virginia waterleaf greens are starting to carpet the forest floor, and Pennsylvania sedge, less showy but no less beautiful than the flowers, is in full bloom. Wild leek leaves are half a foot tall! I hear Song sparrows and a Swamp sparrow as I stroll.
But my favorites are delicate Spring beauties. Their white petals are striped with pink veins. The center is splashed with a tiny splotch of egg-yolk gold. And the stamen are tipped in pink!
Bitternut hickory buds are starting to pop leaves out. A Red maple tree is dotted with fringed red flowers. Box elder sports dainty flowers and tiny leaves just opening. White shelf fungi climb ladder-like up a fallen log, and orange mushrooms dot the path.
Chris asked me to photograph her on the bench her family purchased to memorialize her parents. Also a Master Naturalist and active volunteer, we both enjoy the birds and flowers today. She photographs a Mourning cloak butterfly, and I hear my first Common yellow throat of the year!
Red osier dogwood branches and buds are magenta-red; Weeping willows sport yellow catkins and tiny leaves. They wash the landscape in watercolor reds and yellows. Marsh marigolds dot the wetland, and interesting mosses coat snags and fallen branches. Pussy willows’ soft catkins have gone to flower.
Two pairs of hooded mergansers paddle quietly on the pond. Geese argue loudly. They honk, splash, wing-flap and fly off. Tamarack needles are about 1/8” long already! Bright magenta female strobili, or seed cones, are just emerging. The male strobili are yellow and form on different twigs of the same tree.
Skunk cabbage blooms beneath tamaracks. A few send up their big green leaves. A chipping sparrow trills from the wetland, and White-breasted nuthatches laugh from the woods.
Daffodils have started to flower! Forsythia is in full bloom, telling gardeners to raise their hardy roses from their winter beds. In the Wildflower Garden, a few Dwarf trout lilies are still in bloom, some threatened by encroaching Siberian Squill. Yellow and White trout lilies are open, and False rue anemone glows in clumps. Cardinals and robins sing almost constantly. Several types of woodpeckers are drumming through the woods, and the maniacal laugh of a Pileated woodpecker echoes down the hillside.
I find several violets: Downy yellow, Common blue, Small white and possibly a Northern bog violet. Early meadow rue, Spreading Jacob’s ladder and Mayapples are up and setting their buds.
Cutleaf toothwort, Dutchman’s breeches, Wild ginger and Rue anemone are in bloom. Large-flowered bellwort, Celandine poppies and bluebells are budding and flowering.
In the Prairie Garden, last year’s Thimbleweed seedheads are thick with white cotton, hiding the seeds underneath. Pasque flowers, and Prairie smoke are in bloom and bud. And for a special treat? Pussytoes!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.