By Greg Lecker
It’s been hot, wet and humid this past week – and the plant world is rejoicing. The Arboretum and especially its native plant habitats are lush and green. I head directly to the welcome shade of the Grace Dayton woodland garden. Spring blooming plants are still blooming – woodland poppy and phlox. The buds of woodland poppy is particularly interesting. Like the garden poppy, the bud is covered with prickly hairs – maybe to deter pests.
A little further along the path I notice clumps of maidenhair fern. Like a Fibonacci or golden spiral of a nautilus its fronds curve pleasingly outward from a wiry upright stem in increasingly larger patterning. Though it looks delicate, maidenhair fern seems to withstand the changing conditions of our spring, summer and autumn just fine.
Deeper yet into the relatively cooler woodland, I walk past the flowing brook and reach the woodland pool. Views to the pool are beginning to be blocked by the soaring foliage of cow parsnip. This is certainly an “architectural” plant – with its stout plant stem and larger umbrella-like leaves. It’s one of my favorites – whether in bloom, simply for its foliage, or for the lacy skeletonized leaves that often remain into late autumn and early winter. The fat knuckle from which the plant stem sprouts branches especially intrigues me. Exercise some caution amidst carrot family members such as this plant – for some people are sensitive to its foliage and especially to its sap – another protective measure that plants have developed, I surmise.
Exiting the woodland into the sun of the roadside leading to the prairie, I see wave upon wave of yellow flowers. These are golden Alexanders – and they nicely bridge the gap between the spring woodland flowers and the prairie flowers. Like Cow Parsnip, these are a carrot family member. Yellow umbel (again, umbrella-like) flowers and finely divided plant leaves identify this plant of the woodland edge and sunny prairies and meadows.
Finally, I reach the Capen display garden, where a delicate flower and plant draw my attention away from the Pasque flower and prairie smoke. It is pussytoes – a happy little plant that grows well on bluff tops, alpine habitat and rock gardens. From low basal foliage, little paws stretch upward. As the buds open, they display a soft, furry flower.
Enjoy the alternatively hot humid and dry comfortable weather that is squeezed between the abundant rains we’re enjoying.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.