By Greg Lecker
The hot and wet weather has driven the growing heights and biomass of plants. Reaching Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, I head directly to the showy lady’s slippers – and I sadly discover that their pink and white blooms are past peak and fading fast. I will investigate the larger clump at Green Heron Pond. Among the late woodland foliage, I happily find the fresh flowers of cow parsnip.
Over the past three weeks, its stalks have skyrocketed upward! I struggle to capture all the charms of the tall plant in a photograph – swollen joints on plant stem, large leaves and flower umbels! It thrives in the moist soil of the woodland between Three Mile Drive and the woodland pool.
While the woodland has faded from floral profusion to green sameness; the prairie is just hitting its stride. Flowers are rising above the grasses; and colors are especially vibrant under the brilliant light of a clear day!
Wild white indigo flowers are blooming from bottom to top of its tall flower stalks. The parade of yellow composite flowers has begun. In the Capen prairie display garden water feature, purple prairie clover is in bud. Purple pink prairie phlox is blooming. A wildflower of bluff top and rocky habitats, pale blue violet harebell quivers in today’s breeze.
Near the parking lot, the yellow flowers of northern or dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) are abuzz with a bumblebee or two. The bee hovers and flies around the juvenile reddish leaves. On its hind legs, the “pollen baskets”glow and grow golden orange as it accumulates pollen the bee has brushed from its body after collecting pollen from the flowers it visits.
The most prolific amidst the prairie blooms is white beard-tongue (Penstemon digitalis). It blooms in overflowing drifts that line the path on the south side of the Capen display garden leading me to the shade tree collection. I find it also on the informal path south of the Sensory Garden restrooms and on the north edge of the wet meadow portion of Iris Pond on my way to Green Heron Pond.
A striped wren with rust colored head darts around the woodland edge. It is joined by dragonflies, butterflies, and red-winged blackbirds.
Yes! At the southeast corner of Green Heron Pond, the large mass of showy lady’s slippers are largely still at full bloom – though almost half have begun to fade. Run, don’t walk, to the Arboretum if you are interested in seeing these flowers at the Leonard & Irene Truhn Native Orchid Area located just south of the bog boardwalk. These pink and white flowers – our state flower – are accompanied by the maroon and gold lady’s slippers, which have a longer bloom period. These maroon and gold flowers should be the University of Minnesota’s school flower – if there is such a thing. Wherever these flowers grow, do let them be – and appreciate them in the place where they grow best.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.