Nature Notes

Spring has Sprung

By Greg Lecker

Daffodils and Siberian Squill decorate the edges of the entry drive.  In the courtyard perennial garden behind Snyder Building, crocus of all colors and a pink hyacinth bloom.  Spring has returned to Minnesota.

Songs serenade me as I walk along Three Mile Drive. Notes of Jim’s native American flute playing waft from within the Japanese garden.  Red-winged blackbird, red-bellied woodpeckers and countless other birds add their voices to the dawn song.  As I descend the hill toward Green Heron Pond, two Canada geese arc overhead and descend toward Iris Pond.  I note the clarity of the color crisp water flowing from pond to pond.

Along the path, numerous small tree flowers lie on the asphalt.  I’m reminded to look for star magnolia flowers to start popping this week.  A red squirrel chatters with dissatisfaction as I enter its territory.

Pussy Willow Pollen and Stamens

Pussy willow catkins are being shed even as the male flowers are extruding their pollen tipped stamens through the fuzzy overcoat of the flowers.  I too shed my coat even at this early hour.  I sense humidity is rising with the temperatures.  Northeast of Green Heron Pond, I’m tempted by the waterway and islands that were sculpted a few years ago.  They are looking more and more established; and the log founded wood chip path looks solid.

Red Elderberry

Nature celebrates her woody shrubs by encouraging their emergence slightly below the overhead tree canopy.  One such understory native is the ugly duckling, Red Elderberry.  I use the name ugly duckling to refer to its unattractive winter appearance – all knobby and gangly.  But in the spring, semi-tropical foliage and cauliflower-like buds appear.  Soon, white fragrant flowers will appear, followed by red berries that will be stripped by hungry wildlife.

Snow Trillium

Presently, snow trillium and hepatica remain the lone blooming woodland plants within Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden.  Look for that to change in the near future as rains and warming temperatures come.  The sweet cacophony of chorus frogs mutes as I approach their woodland pool.  One can mimic their call by stroking a hair comb – then imaging a chorus of combs singing in unison!  Yellow and white forsythia bloom along Three Mile Drive between here and the prairie.

Pasque Flower

Within the prairie Capen display garden, Pasque flower is blooming on schedule.  The native wildflower grows on south facing slopes in dry to average sandy soil.  The name, pasque means “passing over”; and the adjective often refers to the events of the Judeo-Christian Passover-Easter season:  the Angel of Death’s passing over of the Israelites and the paschal victim embodied in Holy Week.  Whatever holidays you celebrate this week, I wish you happy times with families and friends.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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