Wild Animals

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The sky is deep blue with just a few wispy clouds. Today’s 84⁰ and a brisk breeze has dried up much of last week’s humidity. Black-capped chickadees and crows call from the woodland trees, and a white-breasted nuthatch laughs nasally. Pagoda dogwood leaves are tinged red at the edges already!

Purple coneflowers

Purple coneflowers

Purple coneflowers and tall white spires of Culver’s root line the entrance to the Arboretum.

But I hurry to the prairie, where I know there will be many new blooms. And I’m right! Prairie blazing star has purple flowers along its thick spikes. Golden petals of grey-headed coneflower dot the prairie, along with rosinweed, black-eyed Susans and smooth oxeye.

Showy tick-trefoil has thin stems lined with delicate pink flowers and magenta buds. Flowering spurge blooms like white billows against green grasses and leaves, with its whorls of tiny white five-petaled flowers with yellow centers.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Bees and butterflies swarm pale lavender swaths of bee balm. Its soothing scent rises from the warm prairie. A song sparrow trills from its low perch on a bare stem and an Indigo bunting sings from a maple tree in the prairie. An eastern cottontail freezes in front of me, then darts quickly into greenery. But these aren’t the only animals at the Arb today.

A trio of young adults hold their phones out in front of them as they stroll. They’re catching Pokémon, imaginary wild animals with names like Nidoran, Bulbasaur, and yes, Pikachu too. The Arb offers a multitude of Pokéstops and gyms for all teams. “We’re definitely coming back!” they exclaim.

Tattered red-spotted purple butterfly

Tattered red-spotted purple butterfly

A tattered red-spotted purple butterfly sticks its proboscis into rattlesnake master flowers to suck the nectar. Prairie phlox and tiny bluets bloom in the prairie garden center. An eastern wood–pewee is perched atop a maple tree, catching flies and calling to its mate.

Tall stems of wild quinine are tipped with a bunch of florets that resemble tiny cabbages. A white crab spider hides, almost perfectly camouflaged, among the blooms. White sage glows silver in the sunlight.

Fragrant anise hyssop is still blooming, but most are setting seeds. Lead plant is in seed, as are white and yellow prairie clovers. A pair of cabbage whites dance around each other over the prairie.

Heart-leaved Alexanders

Heart-leaved Alexanders

Heart-leaved Alexanders sport pompoms of reddish seedpods at the end of yellow stems. Spiderworts, too,have a pompom of seeds forming atop each stem.

I find Vicky Bonk of Grow Monarch Habitat in the prairie garden, where we spotted two monarch butterflies! Vicki also works with the Monarch Festival in Minneapolis, which will be Sep. 10 this year; details are at http://monarchfestival.org. Goldfinches splash in the water, then hop out to preen.

Common whitetail dragonfly

Common whitetail dragonfly

A male common whitetail dragonfly suns on the pavement. Prairie dropseed grasses form smooth soft mounds – a soft bed to camp on! Two pileated woodpeckers call to each other and fly off into the Garden for Wildlife.

But there is still a promise of more to come: Showy and other goldenrods are forming buds at their tips; nodding wild onions have an explosion of buds that just popped through the papery outer skin. Several goldenrods even have those bulging mid-stem galls already! And the asters have only leaves. I’ll have to return soon!

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

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