By Holly Einess
It’s a nearly perfect August day—mild temps, light breeze, blue sky–and I set off toward Green Heron Pond, taking a moment first to admire all the color and beauty in the Annual Garden. After stopping at the pond overlook—a view I never tire of and is ever-changing—I go only steps before I have to stop again. The touch-me-nots are in bloom! And their seedpods are nearly ripe! If you’ve never experienced the surprising thrill of squeezing this plant’s seedpods, you must do so. The plumpest pods are the best—at the slightest touch they burst open, scattering their seeds. I’d like to think these plants, contrary to what their name implies, don’t mind being touched in service of spreading their seeds!
Touch-me-not seed pod
Burst pod and seeds
The other name for this plant is jewelweed (so named because water droplets that settle on their leaves sparkle like small jewels), and there are two kinds—spotted, which have smaller orange blossoms, and pale, which have slightly larger yellow ones. They are an important nectar source for hummingbirds, and I watched numerous bees crawl right inside their blossoms.
Pale and spotted touch-me-not blossoms
Another plant that’s blooming in abundance right now is wild cucumber; its flowers emit a lovely sweet fragrance. This vine grows in large dense patches, seeming to smother everything it covers, but it actually does very little damage to other plants.
Wild cucumber covering jewelweed
I sit down for a few minutes at the boardwalk viewing platform and am joined by several women, one of whom says quietly as she gazes over the pond, “So peaceful.” A large black bird is floating on the water along with several ducks. The large one takes flight and I identify it as a double-crested cormorant, a resident of Minnesota only in summer. It will spend the winter somewhere in the southern U.S., Mexico, or Central America.
Continuing on, I see a ruby meadowhawk dragonfly clinging to the tip of a dried reed, and soon after spot some more red; this time highbush cranberry leaves and berries starting to show their fall color.
I am lured off the boardwalk onto a narrow woodchip trail that arcs out into the wetland. The grasses and shrubs are nearly all over my head and I feel both small and protected in this quiet wild space. A garter snake slithers across the trail into hiding and two hummingbirds dart past.
Reluctantly I finish my walk, along the way noting several more splashes of red among the mostly green foliage. Next time I visit there will be even more evidence that summer is waning; I’m glad to have soaked up all the blooming fullness of this day.
Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.