Gold in the Spring Peeper Meadow

By Holly Einess

At the eastern edge of the Arboretum is the Spring Peeper Meadow, so-named for the little frogs that once inhabited this area. Efforts have been under way since 1997 to restore the meadow, long drained and used for agriculture, to its original wetland state. My walk today reveals a diverse and thriving wetland community; clearly the efforts are paying off!

Spring Peeper MeadowSpring Peeper Meadow

I’m struck by how much gold there is—whole swathes of Canada goldenrod, many with round galls on their stems caused by invading insect larvae. Stiff goldenrod is also present, distinguished from other goldenrods by its round fleshy leaves. I see two other yellow-flowered members of the aster family—sneezeweed (whose leaves, when dried, were once used as snuff) and goat’s beard. Joe-pye weed, with its multitude of tiny pink flowers, offers a contrast to all the yellow.


Goldfinches are singing and calling, some gathering together high in a dead tree, others flitting about in the prairie dock (yet another aster!). Two green herons fly overhead, and a cardinal adds a flash of red to the scene.


As I start down the boardwalk I see that the arrowhead is in bloom. The tubers of this aquatic plant provide food for many animals, including muskrats, geese, ducks and, yes, people. I greet a family as they enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the many boardwalk benches.


At the end of the boardwalk is a stand of sumac, starting to show its brilliant fall reds. Gray-headed coneflower, lead plant, and purple prairie clover have all lost their blooms and are going to seed; further signs that summer will soon be drawing to a close. As I’m about to leave the Spring Peeper Meadow, two eastern tiger swallowtails frolic past and a monarch alights nearby, bookending my visit with these final glimpses of yellow and gold.

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.


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