By Mary Beth Pottratz
Nothing is more beautiful than a wintry sun casting sparkles like fairy dust onto a snowbank. The snow crust twinkles while the shadows reflect a soft steel blue.
Sparkles on a Snowbank
Clear skies and full sunshine warm me despite temperatures hovering at zero and a twenty-below windchill. It’s not just today’s Superbowl LII in Minneapolis keeping people away!
Lisa and Stephen
But I’m not the only one enjoying the Arboretum today! A couple cross-country skis on a distant trail; a family on snowshoes explores the forest. Lisa of Excelsior and Stephen of St. Paul pause to chat and raise their goggles to pose. We hear a nuthatch make nasal alarm calls from the woods. They’ve seen the barred owl in the woodland garden during other visits. The couple strolls away to explore the snow-frosted rose garden.
Witch hazel’s tiny yellow petals and stamen are almost completely fallen away, but the calyx are curving back and inside its ovary is swelling. Although it was pollinated in the fall, it will not be fertilized until spring. Some fruits have turned hard and opened, their seeds already ejected far and loud. Witch hazel can send its seeds 20 to 30 feet away with a loud snap!
Peachy-rose leaves droop from thin ironwood branches. Thick brown pods rattle in the breeze from the tops of Kentucky coffeetrees near the patio behind the Snyder building. A chickadee calls.
I stop to warm up inside the visitor building, and find the “Fragrances of Spring” exhibit showcasing plants at several stations in the hall with a variety of scents and how they are used.
A potted rosemary plant stands five feet tall. It’s tipped with blue and white flowers matching the length of the rosemary needles.The tiny blooms resemble miniature orchids – a bottom spoon-shaped petal flanked by two side petals, and a white-tipped top structure with wings arching over the spoon.
Outside, I check the bird feeders on the terrace and am pleased to see additional feeders set out to help our birds during these unusually low temperatures. A pair of squirrels gathering fallen seed are the only visitors. I look skyward for a hawk or owl but see none. They’re probably all hunkered down for the cold night we have coming.
As should I.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at http://www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.