By Greg Lecker
A fine morning to be out, so says a parenting pair of Canada geese and their goslings. The sun has just cleared the tree-line ringing the still pond between the visitor center and Green Heron Pond.
Dawn on Green Carpet
The glare of sunlight grazes a magic green carpet. Magic carpet indeed! Covering the still water from edge to edge, duckweed and watermeal are floating aquatic plants that reproduce VERY FAST! One week you have some growing along the edges of the pond, and the next, the entire surface is covered! Watermeal consists of a tiny oval single frond or leaf that has no roots. It has the appearance of floating green seeds on the surface of the pond. Duckweed resembles a miniature lily pad with one single hair-like root. Although both plants produce flowers they are rarely observed. They are the smallest flowering plants known. Both of these plants reproduce by budding and fragmentation.
Duckweed and watermeal both have value to the pond ecosystem because they serve as food for numerous types of organisms including waterfowl who return the favor. These tiny plants lodge between the feathers of ducks and geese and then are freed when the waterfowl lands and swims on other ponds.
Quite differently shaped, water horsetail is a spike of green jointed tubular stems and foliage that grows branch-like from the stem at the joint area. Stems are hollow, ¼” diameter, divided into up to 20” jointed segments usually topped with a 1” tall ”cone” that is blunt tipped and located at the top of the stem. The Latin genus name Equisetum means horse and bristle/animal hair.Water Horsetail is a “fern ally”. Like ferns, it reproduces by spores but more predominantly vegetatively by rhizomes.
Horsetail absorbs and stores silica in projections within the stem. These projections and the stem stiffness allow the segments of a separated stem to be “re-joined” like a “tinker-toy”. Holding a cluster of Horsetail in one’s hands, one can use the cross section of the stems as a crude scouring brush. This gives rise to another common plant name – scouring rush. Water Horsetail grows in shallow pond edges, swamps, ditches, lakeshore campsites, along boggy canoe portages, and other sluggish waters with mud bottoms.
As I travel the boardwalk, I hear but don’t see a northern flicker. A flash of flight as I look up – and he/she is gone.
I’m so glad that I haven’t missed the glory of the lady’s slipper orchids. The lady’s slippers orchids are flowering at the south entry to the boardwalk bog walk on the east side of Green Heron Pond. But you can also find them in the Grace Dayton Woodland. They are flowering there along with columbine, Canada anemone.
Yellow Lady’s Slipper
While not our state flower, the yellow lady’s slipper SHOULD be our state university’s flower with its maroon and gold colors!
Showy Lady’s Slipper
I can add little note to the beauty of the showy lady’s slipper but to advise readers to visit the Arboretum. If you, like me, appreciate art, there is another reason to visit the Arboretum. Cast aluminum sculptures of one-thousand origami cranes and other forms abound in the gardens. And, in the ground flower Reedy gallery, don’t miss the accompanying video and indoor exhibit!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.