By Mary Beth Pottratz
Finally, spring has melted most of our deep snowbanks, daylight lasts longer, and bright sunshine is waking up our long-asleep trees and plants! I record 71⁰ temperature with brisk winds and a burning advisory. I hurry to the woodland wildflower garden to check on my favorites: the spring ephemerals and other wildflowers. Ephemeral wildflowers are the ones that die back and disappear once the tree leaves start to grow, such as bloodroot and trout lilies.
Snow trilliums are just starting to pop up. Along a sunny ridge, I counted 33 tiny blooms! Wild leeks are one and two inches tall. The basal leaves of prairie smoke are inches long. Deeply lobed blue-green leaves of Dutchman’s breeches are just starting to rise above the leaf litter. Mark stops to chat, glad to find a kindred soul fascinated by the first tiny blooms of the season.
Minnesota dwarf trout lilies
Hepaticas in shades of blue, white, and pink dot the forest floor. I count three Minnesota dwarf trout lilies already in bud! Although they grow only in three Minnesota counties, an experimental colony has been established at the Arboretum for education and research of this highly endangered plant.
Horsetails are fresh green along the woodland brook. I look hard but find only a single bloodroot flower next to a sun-warmed rock, its leaf already uncurled. Fellow Master Naturalist Volunteer Katy and her friend Karen are strolling the woods and enjoying sunshine.
A golden-rumped warbler peers down at me for a split second before flitting away. I grab a photo, however grainy, to post for this weekend’s City Nature Challenge 2018. This worldwide program to improve nature awareness in our cities runs Apr 27 – 30 this year. Everyone can participate by submitting observations from the seven-county metro area! Check it out at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2018-minneapolis-st-paul.
Deep blue Scilla, also known as Siberian squill, are in bud. Scilla is not native to Minnesota and spreads aggressively. Several plants take up prime real estate in the protection of a tree trunk near beds of other wildflowers. I hope they haven’t displaced any of our beautiful native spring ephemerals. Black-capped chickadees call fee-bee to each other throughout the woods. A lone western chorus frog trills its thumb-down-a-comb call from a woodland pond. Crunching through dry leaves, a gray squirrel hops from long to log.
At the Spring Peeper Meadow, a Canada goose has built its nest atop a muskrat house in the pond. A goldfinch plays hide and seek with me between tree branches. I hear the super-high-pitched “teee” of a kinglet but can’t get close enough to see it. But it should stick around till my next visit.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.