By Mary Beth Pottratz
As I enter the Arboretum, an Eyed Click Beetle flew right into our car. The two-inch long black beetle with white mottling has two huge white rings around a pair of black spots. This gives the appearance of large eyes, presumably scaring away predators. If it lands on its back, it arches its body and snaps itself upward with a “click”, and once airborne it can escape.
Unlike its vegan wireworm cousins that can damage crops and plantings, Eyed Click Beetles eat wood-boring insects. It doesn’t harm crops and plantings, and is needed to aid decomposition. I nestle it safely on a nearby leaf.
Smooth Solomon’s seal is in full flower; tiny cream-colored blossoms hang from axils beneath the stem. Northern bedstraw has clumps of tiny, white, four-petaled blooms. Large yellow Lady’s-slippers are in full flower; I find several showy lady’s-slippers still blooming.
Wild rose lifts its sweet scent in the warm air. Stalks of alum root are studded with green flowers. The orange stamen tips are barely visible beneath the petals. Common yellowthroats call back and forth, and red-eyed vireos seem to answer them!
Shooting star has long green fruits beneath its shriveled petals. A daddy longlegs spider sits atop a fern leaf like King of the Hill. White beardtongues glow in the dim forest light. Golden Alexanders explode with tiny golden florets. Spiderwort is setting its fruit.
Near the iris garden wetland, dragonflies dart everywhere. A twelve-spotted skimmer perches on a soft-stem bulrush nutlet. Another dragonfly has amber-colored wings at their base, like stained glass windows.I recognize the short, buzzy trill of a clay-colored sparrow. Philadelphia fleabane is tipped with tiny, daisy-like flowers, some white and others pink.
In the prairie, tiny longleaf bluets sprawl near rocks. Compact clumps of diminutive prairie phlox grow in the prairie garden. White pea-shaped flowers climb up sturdy stalks of white wild indigo. Wild quinine has clumps of tiny green buds at the tips.
At the Spring Peeper Meadow, a yellow warbler greets me with its sweet, high-pitched song. Song sparrows, an eastern bluebird, and red-winged blackbirds serenade me in. Blue flag iris dot the wetland with color.
Common milkweeds are setting their green buds. There are hundreds here. A quick inspection shows no sign of monarch larval chewing yet. Fuzzy green buds adorn the tips of lead plants. Cinquefoils are just starting to open their golden petals, and tiny green grapes dangle from wild grape vines.
Raspberries are done flowering and starting to set their fruits. Arrowhead leaves point to the sky. Soft stem bulrush sport brown nutlets from their tips. Most interesting are the giant bur-reeds with zigzag stems of small green balls, some spikey with white pistils.
Green staghorn sumac buds are starting to burst open to show off yellow flowers. Balls of white florets with crimson centers and yellow-tipped stamen sit at red osier dogwood tips. Cup plants are chest-high. The bubble and squeak serenades of a bobolink escort me as I leave.
Over the arboretum entrance, four osprey circle overhead, mewing and calling me back another day.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.