By Greg Lecker
The humidity broke with the rain last week; and on this weekend, the green landscape greets my entry into the Grace Dayton woodland. Black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower line the pathway. As I enter the darkness of the shady canopy, two cardinals chirp a canon-like duet (canon=round). Their red hue is a welcome accent to a scene that is a mass of green.
Lately, the woodland’s brook has been flowing strongly—draining the surrounding hills. A few yellow coneflowers hint at the sun to come in the prairie!As I round the bend in the roadway at the shade tree collection, the hillside prairie comes into view. Turkey tail (big bluestem) and yellow cup plant rise above the field around which a Monarch butterfly alights.
Blue vervain (more of a purple color, not actually blue) flowers decorate the fringe of the prairie. White spires of Culver’s root in the prairie mimic the white fairy candles (black cohosh) blooming in the woodland. However, it is the many yellow flowers blooming in prairies and meadows that is the focus of my attention. The majority of these are composite flowers. Resembling a child’s generic drawing of a flower, a composite flower’s petals surrounds a disc composed of a mass of tiny stamens and pistils.
A hovering bumble bee attracts my attention to rosinweed – the shortest of the composite flowers I see blooming. Rough as sandpaper, its leaves are arranged in pairs that are perforated (perfoliate) by the stem that skewers them.
Gray headed coneflower combines with the wild bergamot to create a pleasing yellow-purple complementary color scheme. Drooping petals of gray headed coneflower flutter in the breeze; while an oak spreads its boughs over the grasses.
Two different species of yellow composite flower tower above the already rain-induced height of prairies grasses and forbs. Even when viewed from a distance, the flower stems of two different flowers dominate the prairie – and the Capen Display garden. I am completely intrigued by the prairie dock growing near the circular water feature nearest the parking lot. Large, coarsely textured, triangular leaves surround the base of a tall stem which is topped by a cluster of yellow flowers that resemble those of rosinweed and cup plant.
Nearer to the trellis and the water fall, the fern-like leaves of Compass Plant climb and encircle its flower stem. Arranged in a spiral fashion around the top of the stem, compass plant flowers point in generally two, three or four directions and lend this characteristic to the plant name.
From tall to small! Initially nodding, then rising erect as buds open, Prairie Onion blooms at the fringe of the Capen Display garden spiral water feature. The gurgling water is a welcome sight and sound on a weekend that is rising in temperature!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.