By Mary Beth Pottratz
The Arboretum’s Spring Peeper Meadow is awash with goldenrods in full bloom. The sounds of traffic lighten and the whirr of crickets gets louder as I head along the soft grass trail. A few cicadas saw off and on. The warmth of the earth rises around me, the sky is cloudy, and I feel as in a dream.
Common milkweeds are already sporting green pods. Monarchs are everywhere, nectaring on pink pom poms of spotted Joe-Pye weed, mating on goldenrod, and dancing in the air. Grey-headed coneflowers with droopy yellow skirts are still in bloom. Sumac flowers are darkening to the color of deep cabernet. A red meadowhawk dragonfly rests on the boardwalk while playgroups of goldfinches chatter in the treetops.
Fruits of giant bur-reed resemble the spikes atop a medieval morningstar weapon. The wetland bottom is parched dry, but plants sprout up from deep cracks. Curiously, the tips of cattails are browned, as though charred. I wonder if it’s caused by lack of water. Yet, white flowers of arrowhead are in full bloom.
Bright yellow sunflowers and even taller cup plants sway above the wetland plants, Blue vervain is still in bloom, hiding among grasses. Poufy heads of white boneset are buzzing with bees. Plum trees and grapevines are in fruit.
Michael and Maggie
New members Michael and Maggie stroll the grass path with little Miranda facing out in her baby carrier. They are enjoying the beautiful plants and sounds of the meadow. They are only the second group of people I find at Spring Peeper Meadow today.
Tall stems of deep purple ironweed flowers have mostly dried to brown and are forming seeds.Highbush cranberry shrubs are tipped with bright red berry clusters. Young ash trees are heavy with tufts of seeds, called samaras.
I find a clump of creamy gentian deep beneath the grass tops.Each flowers’ closed petals resemble a tiny tulip before it opens. Yet, these flowers will remain almost entirely closed.
The herbal perfume of anise hyssop is dreamy. Its licorice-flower aroma makes a delicious tea. Bee balm is still in bloom, but its seeds are swelling as its petals shrink, dry, and fall away.
A little girl excitedly points out a caterpillar she found on the trail. It’s a woolly bear! This little thing can live up to 14 years. Folklore also maintains that the wider its central brown band, the milder the winter. I guess our winterwill be mild to average.
A black-capped chickadee serenades from behind a tree. He chortles through his entire repertoire while I listen! Fee-bee, chik-burr, tsseeet, chink, tsst, and suweet all in a row! I watch with binoculars, just to make sure it’s not the catbird I heard mewing a half hour ago. Sure enough, he hops around to my side of the tree, black cap and all. One look at me, and he darts away.
Time for me to dart home, too, and leave my daydream behind.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.