By Holly Einess
As often happens when I’m at the Arboretum I’m drawn to the East Side Trails, and today I decide to explore Lost Pond Trail. A blue jay cries raucously in the distance as I set off. Several eastern gray squirrels(one of them albino) are busy gathering acorns in the woods. Their rustling in the dead leaves is accompanied by the light clatter of other leaves as they flutter down from the trees.
Lost Pond Trail
Lost Pond itself is covered in a green carpet of duckweed. Often mistaken from a distance for algae, duckweed is a food source for waterfowl and marsh birds. The cattails are quickly losing their tidy cigar shapes and bursting into cottony fluff; they reproduce both by wind-dispersed seeds and through their thick white roots, called rhizomes.
A wild cucumber vine has snaked up a cedar; its Dr. Seuss-looking seed pods have begun to open and eject their seeds. I’m told wild cucumber blossoms, now gone, emit a lovely fragrance. I’ll need to wait until next summer to find out for myself!
Wild cucumber seed pod
Leaving the pond behind, the trail again becomes winding and wooded. A cluster of white pines towers amidst the deciduous trees. A sudden movement catches my eye, then a flash of white, and I spot the undulating flight of several northern flickers. They are Minnesota’s only brown-backed woodpecker, and the only woodpecker to regularly feed on the ground, hunting for ants and beetles.
Two barred owls begin calling to each other—“Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you?”—and I head off in their direction to see if I can spot them, but they soon quiet.
All around me summer’s lush abundance is dying back and turning to autumn’s harvest of seed and storage.As I arrive back at the Snyder Building two chipmunks are doing some harvesting of their own, one with already-bulging cheeks and the other doing his best to achieve the same.They, like many Minnesotans, are using these lovely autumn days to prepare for the months to come.
Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer