Summer Orchids

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Yellow-tipped stamens dangle like pom-poms from tall meadow rue plants.

DSC_0297 tall meadow rue - CopyTall Meadow Rue

White beardtongue flowers trumpet their existence. The colors of bush honeysuckle leaves range from green to purples all summer long. Right now they are flowering, in tiny bursts of yellow that take on reddish orange highlights as they age.

DSC_0314insect cocoonDogwood Leaf

A dogwood leaf is rolled up and hanging from a twig. Its ends are sealed shut like a little package. A pollinator performed this work, possibly a leaf-cutter bee or a moth. A white-bodied dragonfly with large dark splotches in the middle of its wings rests on the warm wooden boardwalk.

DSC_0307smooth Solomon's sealSmooth Solomon’s Seal

Peek underneath the waxy leaves of smooth Solomon’s seal, and you will find rows of flowers dangling. A sprinkle of raindrops sends me indoors to wait it out. A delightful display of art with a Japanese influence is in Reedy Gallery, and another, Mother Nature’s Medium: Exploration with Wood in the Cafe Gallery. Visitors watch birds at feeders outside the cafe windows, and I have to tear myself away from the gift shop when the rain is done!


Tired of mowing? The Arb displays a few types of sedges that make lovely ground covers. Sedges curve over gracefully, are soft to walk on, and require no mowing! Another beautiful woodland ground cover is wild ginger.

Adding interest and a different form, cream-colored jelly fungus oozes down an old snag. An old nursery log is taken over by jewelweed. It is so-called because it provides nutrition and habitat for so many important animals at the bottom of the food chain: millipedes, spiders, ants, mites, bacteria and fungi.

Bright yellow goldfinches, common yellowthroats and a long catbird take turns singing. Red-winged blackbirds are still keeping up with their territorial calls, and a swamp sparrow trills from the cattails.

DSC_0452 blue flag irisBlue Flag Irises

Arrowhead leaves point skyward, but I find no buds forming yet. Blue flag irises are still in bloom. A tamarack is loaded with thick purplish cones. Light green sensitive ferns stand out against cattails and dark green plants.

Two common yellowthroats dart fast around me as I stroll, each with a beak full of insects. They hold their tails high in the air, and their calls and flights increase. I turn and leave what must be close to their nest.

DSC_0591Showy Lady’s Slipper

Green bog orchids bloom in spikes along their thin stems. A butterfly with striped antennae darts through cattails. The outside of its wings resembles gravel, and the inside is a complicated pattern of oranges and browns. It rests on my ankle, tickling me with its proboscis. That treasured Minnesota State Flower, the Showy Lady’s-Slipper, is still blooming. Not to worry if you can’t get to the Arb quickly. There is so much more to see!

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.


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