Pips and Squeaks

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Minnesota’s native plants need protection, and today I get to do just that! I pot tiny sundew seedlings with metal spatulas and tweezers into individual pots in the Arb’s greenhouse. Sundews, or Drosera, are carnivorous plants that grow in bogs, mostly in the north of our state.

John and Jenny Thull

Also in the greenhouse today are John and Jenny Thull. John is a biologist and the Vineyard Manager at the Arb’s Horticultural Research Center. Jenny was working on her degree in Food and Wine Pairings when the two met. Her Cordon Bleu class took a tour at the Arb that John guided. They married and now raise their family and work together. A fine pairing, indeed!

Grapevine Cuttings

They are preparing grapevine cuttings for propagation. They show me earlier cuttings that already have fresh green buds. The cuttings will be ready to be planted in the ground in their second year.

Dwarf Trout Lily

Afterwards, I head outdoors and am rewarded with the very first purplish pips of dwarf trout lily sprouting barely a half-inch above ground. This endangered plant is one of the first to bloom in the spring. It doesn’t propagate by seed and almost always dies when transplanted. It requires specific soil, fungi, and growing conditions and is found in only three counties in southeast Minnesota.

Barred Owl

The little brook running between trees is entirely melted and makes muted gurgle noises in the silent forest. Others have told me the snow trillium are just starting to sprout as well, but I find none. The pair of resident barred owls hoot very quietly and softly through the trees. One is staring at me from just above the path!

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The bird feeders at the Ordway Shelter are alive with action: dark-eyed juncos, nuthatches, cardinals, chickadees, turkeys, and a red-bellied woodpecker all vie for their turns at the table. I see my first pink-sided junco here! The turkeys squeak and mutter their complaints as I walk past.

Today’s snowless landscape reveals greening ferns and last year’s hepatica leaves. By the time this is posted on Monday, the Arb will be blanketed in fresh snow. Another good reason 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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