By Mary Beth Pottratz
It’s a beautiful 70⁰ cloudless sky, but hazy and scented with smoke from wildfires in Canada. Grey dogwood, Chokecherry and other shrubs are setting their buds.
The first Virginia waterleaf of the season are in bud and a few are already flowering: a white or pale pastel cluster of five-petaled bells with very long, hairy stamen
Sedges line the walkway along Green Heron Pond, backed by Wild blue phlox, Virginia waterleaf, and dots of violets scattered everywhere. Song sparrows trill, nuthatches call “auk”, robins sing, and a woodpecker drums a brief, steadily-repeated percussion.
New plantings along the boardwalk include tamarack, cedar, meadowsweet and more. Marsh marigolds gleam in the sunlight. A Jack-in-the-pulpit is striped purple and green, camouflaged in the greenery.A horsetail has popped up on a mound of dirt, showing its orange, yellow and brown ringed base. I spy orchid leaves in spots: Northern green orchid and yellow lady’s slipper.
A pair of hooded mergansers and a pair of mallards paddle in Green Heron Pond. Male red-winged blackbirds call aggressively back and forth. Several pair up with a female for a game of tag, diving behind the cattails. Half a dozen painted turtles sun themselves on a tiny island.
A slender damselfly lands on my hand for a few seconds. A lady beetle with a striped instead of dotted back crawls on a plant, but I see no mosquitoes. Starry false Solomon’s seal has just started blooming.Common yellowthroat and a swamp sparrow call from the wetland.
Skunk cabbage leaves are a foot tall already. I find a forest of horsetail, and maple seeds scatter the ground. Jewelweed is several inches tall. Prairie smoke is still in bloom. Tamaracks sport male and female cones along their branches.
The bog path beneath me squishes. Deer tracks show that the animal sunk several inches along this path! Sphagnum moss covers the top of a felled tree trunk, with slender red stems tipped with buds. Wild callas are starting to bloom!
Virginia mountain mint is a few inches tall, and its leaves smell delicious. A pair of geese honk at me with a tail waggle, head nod and a flapped wing as I pass near. The mini irises are in bloom in the Iris Garden. Deep pink crabapple flowers stand out.
Trees are leafing out more heavily now, and the flush of pale green from a week ago has become thick, rich shades of kelly, hunter and lime. Oak trees are fringed with strings of flowers, and have shiny green leaves.
Pink Wild geraniums and blue Greek valerian flowers are starting to bloom. I try to photograph a Mayapple, but the flower droops beneath its umbrella-like leaf. Passerby Laura offers to hold up the leaves so I can get the photo. She has tried to photograph mayapples and understands the challenge.
Most of the spring ephemerals are done flowering, but trilliums still dot the woods with white and some pink three-petaled flowers. Violets are popping above the leafy fray in shades of purple, lavender, blue, white, white striped with purple, and yellow. Virginia bluebells sway in the breeze. Although rue anemone is now gone, false rue anemone carries on the flag, spotting tiny white flowers throughout the woodland.
Columbines are in bloom! Maidenhair ferns are a few inches tall. A false Solomon’s seal has just set its buds at its stem’s tip. And large yellow lady’s-slippers are in bud already. Families are out in force today, enjoying the weather, flowers, fresh green leaves, and each other.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer Program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.