Nature Notes

A Step Back in Time

By Holly Einess

The morning is sunny and mild, and I’m eager to explore the Spring Peeper Trail. I start out on the Ridge Trail and right away spot a lovely little woodland plant I’ve not seen before. Subsequent research reveals it to be helleborine, a non-native orchid that’s considered invasive in both Wisconsin and Michigan. Too bad!


Before emerging onto the marsh I hear an eastern wood-pewee calling “pee-ah-weee”; I take a moment to look around the woods and appreciate how alive it feels, with leaves rustling in the breeze and spider-silk threads glinting in the sunlight. Once out on the sunny boardwalk I notice a bee bonanza on the swamp milkweed, and farther on see that the jewelweed (also called touch-me-not for its seedpods that, when ripe, burst at the lightest touch) is just beginning to bloom.


The sound of running water accompanies me briefly as I veer off the Green Heron Trail onto the Spring Peeper Trail. The cattails are tall and their brown flower spikes plump; water horsetail ends a lacy look among all the other water-loving plants. Before long I’m in the woods again and am delighted to find a cluster of Indian pipe. White due to lack of chlorophyll, it gets its nutrition from dead or decaying plant material and its bell-like flower turns upright only after pollination.

indian pipeIndian pipe

The trail soon opens up into a habitat entirely distinct from the marsh and forest. Here, the wildflowers are abundant–black-eyed Susan, gray-headed and purple coneflower, bee balm, fleabane, red clover, heal-all,and Queen Anne’s lace.

Queen Anne's laceQueen Anne’s lace

Tree and barn swallows chatter noisily as they swoop and dive, a song sparrow calls in the distance, and dragonflies alight on the grasses. As I look around, the only sign of human presence is the trail, reminiscent of a prairie road, and I feel as though I’ve stepped back in time.

Spring Peeper Trail 1Spring Peeper Trail

As I come to the intersection of the Ridge Trail I realize I’ve covered less than half of the Spring Peeper Trail. Out of time for today, I know I’ll be back to explore the rest soon.

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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