Colors, Textures and Sounds of Spring

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The landscape is awash in color: Green grasses, sedges and plants, treetops brushed with pale greens, shrubs and undercanopy painted magenta, pink and white, willows glowing neon green.

Tulips in smooth lipstick shades bloom in large swatches in the annual gardens. The rock garden is a mosaic of textures, shapes, and colors. But the wild call of a Pileated woodpecker beckons me into the forest wildflower garden.

Large-flowered trilliums
Large-flowered trilliums

Large-flowered trilliums dot the woodland floor with white. Early meadow rue is still in flower, and Large-flowered bellwort flowers stand out as the wavy yellow blossoms dangle downwards.

An Eastern phoebe sings its name repeatedly. Chickadees are whistling their long “fee-bee” calls, and chipping sparrows seem to be everywhere. Northern bedstraw and Virginia waterleaf coat the ground green, hiding last year’s dried leaves. Virginia bluebells pop above it, pink buds turning blue as they open.

Blue cohosh
Blue cohosh

A few blooms of White and Yellow trout lilies ad Cutleaf toothwort hide behind them.  A cluster of inch-wide lime green flowers with yellow stamen rise above the paw-print leaves of Blue cohosh. Its smooth stem is a cloudy blue color.

Against a rock warmed by the sun, I find my first Wild geranium blossom of the season, atop a cluster of fuzzy green buds tipped in purple points. May apples and nodding trilliums both are holding their flower buds tightly closed, sheltered beneath their leaves.

Wild ginger
Wild ginger

Wild ginger shows its fuzzy flowers, even as its leaves unfurl! The first few round buds of Greek valerian are starting to show. Canadian white violets, Downy yellow and Common blue violets glow in the muted forest light.

Marsh marigolds, purple violets and white anemones tumble down the bank of the small stream, where iris leaves are already a foot or more tall. Western chorus frogs call in groups from the nearby pond. Wild blue phlox and Wild strawberry are sporting their first open buds.

Maidenhair fern fiddleheads
Maidenhair fern fiddleheads

I have never seen Maidenhair fern fiddleheads before, and the wonderful Botanical Wanderings group on Facebook helped me to identify them.They form atop single, naked, reddish stems. Lady, Bracken and Christmas ferns are several inches above ground. Solomon’s seal plants are leafing out.

Eastern redbud
Eastern redbud

Yellow lady’s-slippers’ lance-shaped leaves are several inches tall, but there is no sign yet of Showy or Small yellow lady’s-slippers. Black snakeroot plants and Horsetails are a few feet tall already. Eastern redbud trees glow throughout the woodlands, its outer branches traced with pink and magenta flowers.

River birch branches are still leafless, with tiny buds appearing along twigs and many gracefully-dangling catkins. Tamaracks are coated in green needles. Cardinals call “whit whit” relentlessly, and the wind rustles through the treetops.

Non-native Pasque flowers
Non-native Pasque flowers

Non-native Pasque flowers are in full bloom in deep purple clumps in the prairie garden. Their native counterparts completed flowering several weeks ago in the bluffs and goat prairies. Prairie smoke is also in full bloom. And here finches and Song Sparrows regale with their sweet trills.

Wild turkeys are pecking at the ground beneath crab trees flowering in fluffy billows of pink, magenta and white. The stately American elm just outside the Ornamental Grass Collection is completely in bud; I am relieved to see another year where  it still seems healthy.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at


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