Smelling the Rain

By Sydney Chandler

It rained.

As with most phenomena, such a simple statement is not the full story. Comparisons between rainy day visits and “nice days to visit the Arboretum” include differences in sounds, plants’ appearances, and smells.

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Rain on the Green Heron Trail

The Green Heron Trail lacks the normal bustle of feeding birds and small mammals; the trees seem deserted. Wet leaves don’t crunch crisply on the forest floor, and other subtle sounds are drowned out by the steady patter of rain drops on the canopy.

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Sweet Potato “Sweet Caroline Bewitched Green with Envy”

Rainy days provide an opportunity to observe plants as they interact with a vital resource: water. Sweet Potato leaves cleanly funnel water toward their stems. In comparison, raindrops cling to the pedals of the Chinese Hibiscus as if they were glued in place.

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Chinese Hibiscus “Cherie”

Smells also change in the rain. Dropped leaves begin to mold and release their distinct scent with each step on the trail. Plants on the Green Heron Trail smell particularly vibrant as compared to the less intense smells along the road. The plants are calling out “We’re thirsty!”

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Green Heron Pond

Catching plants on a rainy day is like a student seeing their teacher outside of school: it throws a familiar subject into a new context. A rainy day at the Arboretum is the opportunity to explore familiar plants and trails in a context full of different sounds, sights, and smells.

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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