By Greg Lecker
The Arboretum grounds are lush and full at this time of year! The Grace Dayton woodland garden has regained color and interest as the late summer flowers have begun blooming. Sunlight streams in through openings in the tree canopy and backlights maples leaves. Returning again to a woodland that misses her spring ephemeral blooms, autumn shade flowers are enjoying a last hurrah before autumn foliage takes center stage.
At woodland openings and along the entry path spotted jewelweed blooms. The plant is named jewelweed because of the way water droplets bead on the plant leaves and reflect color and light. Trumpet-like flowers attract hummingbirds. The plant’s alternative name, Touch-me-not, describes its unique seed dispersal! After flowering, long gel-like fruits form. The ribs of these cigar shaped fruits swell with the growing seeds within. At the slightest touch, these ribs recoil backwards and fling seeds a remarkable distance. In a dense stand of the plant, scattering seeds may set off a chain reaction in which one plant after another peppers the surrounding area with seeds. In moist areas, the plant forms dense colonies that can be invasive in the manicured landscape. Falling to the ground, the spent skin is transformed into what appears to be a miniature culinary garnish.
Here and there, pink turtlehead blooms. The plant often accompanies spotted jewelweed since both appreciate soil moisture. In the drier woodland areas, a white flower and a yellow flower dominate. Along woodland edges and openings, white snakeroot blooms for a month or two.
My favorite autumn woodland flower is zig-zag goldenrod. I only wish that my front yard I had the Arboretum’s natural predators to prey on city rabbits that prefer the plant stems and leaves. Especially when young, the stems and leaves of these two plants appear similar. Zig-zag goldenrod must taste better!
Since an afternoon visit is a rare for me, I notice the light now coming from a different direction. Grazing illumination accents the river birch that leans over the woodland path. Its exfoliating copper colored bark is especially attractive.A rare “binky” blossom dangles from a plant stem.
Found on the ground, the pacifier has been thoughtfully and carefully placed, hopefully to attract its owner.
Duckweed completely covers the surface of the woodland pool with a bright green skin. Along the path above the pool, plenty of wingstem flowers and forming seed heads decorate the plant stems. Review my September 22, 2014 post to learn more about this uncommon plant.
In the prairie, the roadside hill appears a five feet taller than it was in the springtime – due to the lush grasses and forbs that have grown this summer. Seed stalks and flower stems tower over the foliage. Two different asters are blooming: a small blue-violet aster and the taller New England Aster.
New England aster blooms with lush large purple to violet color blooms, often with orange centers. It’s a native that finds welcome use in the cultivated garden.
The line of yellow flowers of black-eyed Susans and goldenrod mirror the layered stone ledges above the water feature of the Capen display garden. A monarch drinks from prairie dock flowers and basks in the late afternoon heat!
Visit the Arboretum this month to see all the flowers in bloom – the native ones as well as those in the display gardens. Visit next month for peak autumn color!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.