Enduring the Extremes

By Sydney Chandler

Winter has taken on traits of groundcovers, creeping vines, and invasive species to learn to choke out warmth and leave a frozen trail behind. The cold seeks out exposed skin and seeps through layers of warm clothing. Arboretum residents– both flora and fauna– have hunkered down to survive the cold. Flora seem frozen in time: colors approach gray scale, ice forms on branches, and fresh snow clings to trunks and leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrees surviving the cold

However, tracks near the Rose Garden are evidence that some individuals have ventured from their cozy shelters. Deer tracks lead to the base of a Plum Tree. The snow-cover beneath is disturbed and reveals that the deer likely foraged through the groundcovers for a snack. The tracks lead back toward the Sensory Garden where another patch of groundcovers has been combed through.

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Deer in search of a snack

Other evidence of animal activity demonstrates the clever ways some individuals strategize. A small highway of tracks surrounds a downed log. Tiny footprints trace from holes in the ground to small slots in the log where a cozy den likely houses members of the rodent family.

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Track highway to a cozy log

Explorers at the Arboretum have opportunities to experience a dramatic range of conditions. For visitors, these extremes mean frozen eyelashes vs. sweaty brows, icy toes vs. grass-stained feet, and chapped cheeks vs. sun-burned faces. Observing our own responses to the extremes in conjunction with those of the Arboretum inhabitants is both humbling and sparks curiosity.

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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