Nature Notes

Abundant Diversity in a Single Stride

By Sydney Chandler

Choosing to cover minimal distance this week provided the opportunity to observe extraordinary variety at the Dwarf Conifers garden. The distinct scent of conifers wafts across the path, the waterfall’s din covers any rustling of needles, and walking too closely to the edge of the path results in scruffy ankle-high tickles.

Dwarf Conifers Diversity

Variety among the Dwarf Conifers comes in many categories. Color varieties include green, yellow, and even silver needles. In particular, the Common Juniper and Tamarack exhibit multiple shades on a single stem. Several plants are embellished with cones. Some cones are green and resemble the tight elongated shape of a caterpillar chrysalis while others are brown with each scale pealing outward.

‘Petite’ Common Juniper

Stems have contrasting needle patterns: radial growth or a much flatter shape. Up close, needles mimic both organic and in-organic textures: feathers, plastic Lego trees, sturdy grasses, and worn-out felt. Stepping back, the plants’ shapes range from ground creepers to bushes to trees. Comically, a few varieties (such as the Jack Pine) appear to be tree-wannabe’s but are too exhausted to grow vertically.

‘Pusch’ Norway Spruce

For tired legs, the Dwarf Conifers spark curiosity and provide ample variety with minimal walking. Where else in the Arboretum is there so much diversity in a single stride?

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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