By Mary Beth Pottratz
Huge cannas and bright begonias festoon the walks and gardens at the Arboretum. But to me, the five tiny white petals of flowering spurge whirling around its stem and clusters of wild quinine that resemble miniature heads of cauliflower are far more intriguing.
White prairie clover is puffy with seeds, and purple prairie clover is still in bloom. Big bluestem as tall as I am has stem tops about to burst with seeds.
Monarch butterflies are everywhere, circling purple spikes of liatris and skipping between blossoms. A tattered monarch zips with surprising speed over the prairie. Another nectars at a coneflower. One pair dances upwards in a double helix!
Red admiral butterfly and purple coneflower
A red admiral butterfly nectars at a purple coneflower. Bumblebees fly from one lavender petal of bee balm blossom to the next, pollinating as they go. Butterflies and even hummingbirds are known to visit this lovely native wildflower, and it is attractive massed in garden beds.
Spikes of purple prairie clover and white prairie clover are in flower. The sweet scent of common milkweed reaches me long before I see it! I inhale deeply the amazing scent of anise hyssop, which makes a delightful tea when dried. Alliums dangle pale lavender flowers from drooping stems; bright yellow rosinweed flowers sit atop their tall stems. Lavender clusters of phlox are still scenting the warm, still air.
Graceful plumes of Canada wild rye arch above flowers and grasses and black-eyed Susans are in full golden bloom. A common whitetail dragonfly lands in the fray, pausing just long enough for me to identify it. Tamaracks sport fresh green cones next to last year’s brown, wooden ones.
A string of young geese follows an adult in curving single file across the pond, leaving a trail in the duckweed. Grey-headed coneflower is in full bloom. Blue vervain are starting to go to seed, while Joe pye weed is just setting its buds.
Pale blue berries of blue cohosh glow in the shaded woods. Red baneberry shrubs have bright to dark red clusters of berries amid their leaves. Nodding trillium flowers have aged to a papery purple seedhead. Green acorns are growing inside their caps. A phoebe trills its name, red-eyed vireos call in two-syllable staccato, goldfinches and yellowthroats join in the chorus.
I almost miss the beautiful Mini Bog Garden as I head to my car. Just a few feet long, it sports beautiful carnivorous pitcher plants in flower and sundews. Only a few feet long, ferns, mosses, Labrador tea and others grow here. Normally found in northern Minnesota’s tamarack and peat bogs, this garden is a special treat to help teach about the amazing plant and animal life in our bogs. You can find it near the stairs at the Iris Garden.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.