Nature Notes

Former Residents

By Boak Wiesner

At last, after all these years, I finally finish the last of the trails that I had yet to walk on, namely, the snowshoe trail across the march east of Wood Duck Pond. The recent warmth has nearly melted on the snow and it was ice skates I was wishing I had to do this part of my jaunt.

dsc_0036Standing like silent sentinels, last year’s fruits, and yes!, they’re fruits, at least, botanically, of Cattails stand in shabby splendor at the dreg ends of winter. Cattails are a survivalist’s dream: their roots are edible, the base of the stalk is, too, tasting like cucumbers, the shafts of the flowers are nice and straight to make projectiles, the robust leaves can be woven into mats, the fluffy fruits can be used to absorb liquids and pack into insulation – wow! All that in one of the most common plants in our area! Oh, their biomass can be converted to biodiesel, too.

dsc_0043From the north side looking across, I see what looks like a beaver lodge, and sure enough, that’s exactly what it is. The Red Osier Dogwood branch on top is still looking fresh so I wonder how long ago this lodge was occupied? Probably those large rodents, biggest in North America, were removed before they chowed down too many trees around here.

dsc_0050I’m not too upset for them because I saw a fresh lodge just over the highway in Lake Minnewashta on my way in. I was a little sad, though, when I considered what those beavers had to eat right around here – nothing but hardwoods, maples, oaks, ashes, and ironwood, when they’d really rather be snacking on the tender bark of aspen and eating the roots of waterlilies, their favorite food. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

dsc_0055Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer

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