Nature Notes

Flowers (and more) in the Wild Gardens

By Holly Einess

It’s a cool, overcast, breezy day; rather than my usual longer hike on one of the East Side Trails I decide to hit the wildflower garden and the garden for wildlife.

The spring wildflowers are, of course, long gone, as are the lady’s slippers, but I am delighted to find a whole new batch of plants in bloom. The white bottle-brush blooms of black cohosh stand out against the lush green background. The red of the cardinal flower glows in the muted light.

cardinal flowersCardinal flowers

A small four-petaled yellow flower with deeply lobed leaves and a fuzzy seed capsule catches my eye. It is a celandine poppy, a non-native plant normally found east of here. I stop to examine another plant with tiny white flowers and teardrop-shaped capsules covered in hooked hairs. Called enchanter’s nightshade, this one is native to Minnesota.

celandine poppyCelandine poppy

The tall bellflower with its five-petaled purple flowers is in bloom, while the red baneberry has already dropped its flowers and moved on to bright red fruit. I glance up from the plants to find two eastern wood pewees staring at me. I realize that I’ve been hearing their “pee-a-wee!” call for some time in the background and am happy to see them up close.

eastern wood peweesEastern wood pewees

I take the paved path up out of the wildflower garden and along the shade tree exhibit en-route to the garden for wildlife but am waylaid by the beauty and abundance in the prairie garden. The colors! The variety! The buzzing and fluttering and hovering insects! As I’m drinking it all in I notice some unusual growths on the underside of a leaf. What in the world….? I take a few photos and on returning home I do some research. My best guess is stink bug nymphs next to their recently vacated eggs. The nymphs will go through five stages (called instars) of growth before reaching adulthood. They get their name from the foul-smelling fluid they discharge when disturbed.

stink bug nymphs and eggsStink bug nymphs and eggs

I finally make my way into the garden for wildlife. Here, too, are flowers in abundance, especially blazing stars and black-eyed Susans, with a few milkweed in the mix. .

blazing stars and black-eyed susansBlazing stars and black-eyed Susans

The sun has been peeking out, but suddenly a few raindrops fall, then more, and I find myself scampering for cover under the spreading arms of a river birch. I lean on a low branch and watch the landscape blur around me. The shower only lasts a few minutes and I resume my walk, attention drawn to a flash of blue that turns out to be a spring azure butterfly.

spring azureSpring azure

I take the direct route–Three-Mile Drive–back to my car, savoring the post-rain freshness and height-of-summer lushness all around me.

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer

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