The Best Season

By May Beth Pottratz

The cool morning air warms in the bright sunshine. The breeze becomes tinged with sweet perfume of lilacs, hyacinth, and the simple freshness of tulips, daffodils, and new leaves.

DSC_0014 common yellowthroat croppedCommon yellowthroat

A little bird with a grey head, buff-colored breast and rich brown cap warbles from a branch low in the cattails. A chubby male common yellowthroat calls “wickety, wickety, wickety” from small trees at the wetland’s edge. Five fluffy goslings skip after their parents.

DSC_0054 large flowered trilliumLarge-flowered trillium

At the wildflower garden, large-flowered trilliums sport three white petals, with a few blushing pale pink as they age. Virginia waterleaf and wild geraniums are just starting to set buds. Violets in shades of blue, purple, white and yellow are scattered about.

Tiny white bells dangle from a single cut-leaved toothwort. Lacy-edged florets of bishop’s cap rise in tiny white spikes. Dappled shade caused the demise of most other spring ephemerals. But now the ground is carpeted green, with swaths of Virginia bluebells and dots of wild blue phlox. Marsh marigolds are almost in full golden bloom along the little stream in the wildflower garden.

DSC_0074 columbine croppedColumbines

Columbines are just starting to raise their thin stems. Chipping sparrows, cardinals, blue jays, red-eyed vireos all call within the woods. There are many others I can’t identify by call and can’t see to photograph. I could spend a full day just chasing birds by their calls!

Tiny white false rue anemones peek out through the greenery. Downy yellow violets with deep purple stripes catch my eye. Large-flowered bellworts have yellow flowers drooping down.

DSC_0129 wild ginger flower croppedWild ginger

Solomon’s seal has buds that will open soon. Even a small Jack-in-the-pulpit is out preaching to the forest. Wild ginger flowers rest on the ground at the base of the stem, where they are pollinated by ants and other crawling insects. A pileated woodpecker’s prehistoric call echoes through the woods.

DSC_0173 blue cohosh flower and buds croppedBlue cohosh

Delicate maidenhair ferns are up, as are ostrich, sensitive and interrupted ferns. Pagoda dogwoods are barely leafed outbut have new green flower buds. Tiny green flowers of blue cohosh bloom in clusters atop powdery-blue stems. Mayapples have swelling green buds underneath umbrella-like leaves, while early meadow rue’s stamens are already browning with age. Round-topped cylinders of white baneberry rise above the fray.

DSC_0185 Jerry and Sue crJerry and Sue

I find dear friends Jerry and Sue.They pause for a photo under a ceiling of pink crabapple blossoms. Eastern redbud flowers are already changing from deep to a pale pink, and leaves are emerging.

In the prairie garden, I run my hand over yarn-soft pussytoes. Prairie smoke blooms dangle in strawberry hues. Grasses and forbs are returning to life; it’s the best season of the year.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer Program is available at


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