By Holly Einess
When I was last at the Arboretum in early April I snowshoed through the white landscape, bright sun reflecting off the snow and hurting my eyes. What a different scene is before me today as I set off in shorts and sandals into a lush green landscape dotted with splashes of color.
In the wildflower garden the yellow lady’s slippers are in bloom, both the normal-sized ones and their smaller cousins. (Our state flower, the showy lady’s slipper, has not yet shown itself.)
Small yellow lady’s slipper
It’s one of those lovely late-spring mornings that pulls people irresistibly outdoors, and I find myself in the company of other orchid-seekers with cameras, schoolchildren in matching t-shirts, and a group of young boys, one of whom exclaims as he hops across the stream, “This is FUN!!”
Virginia waterleaf and wild geranium are blooming in profusion, their light blue and lavender blossoms breaking up the green of the forest floor. The purple petals of the spiderwort flower will likely wilt by noon on this sunny,quickly warming day.
Two tiger swallowtail butterflies dance around one another as I head to the wetland adjacent to the wildflower garden. A female red-winged blackbird (a heavily streaked brown bird who looks nothing like her male counterpart) alights nearby, and a common yellowthroat peers at me through the reeds.
Yellow water lilies are blooming on the pond. I hear the distant who-cooks-for-you hoot of a barred owl and the plucked-banjo-string call of a green frog.
Pond and wetland
Damselflies and dragonflies shimmer in the sunlight; a twelve-spotted skimmer lands close enough that I can easily distinguish both the brown spots that give it its name and the white ones in between that tell me this one’s a male.
I cross Three Mile Drive and start up Green Heron Trail, where I see a duckweed-covered painted turtle sunning itself on a log in Green Heron Pond and hear the call of an eastern wood pewee. Once on Spring Peeper Trail I hear even more birds—gray catbird (yes, it sounds like a mewing cat!), cardinal, red-eyed vireo, blue jay, and once again the barred owl; actually seeing the birds is challenging amidst all the foliage.
I stop to admire a small colony of Canada mayflower (also known as false lily-of-the-valley) and notice a daddy longlegs snacking on an insect.
Canada mayflower/false lily-of-the-valley
As I head back toward Green Heron Trail cottonwood fluff is drifting down like snow, and I am very grateful that the real thing is behind us, at least for the next few months!
Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer