Snow Tacos and Tracking Up a Tree

By Sydney Chandler

Fresh snow changes what we see in the landscape and it draws our attention to new observations. At the Arboretum, there is a magical perfection of untouched snow. In contrast, there are disturbances that tell stories of “Who?” and “What happened?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFothergilla a.k.a. Snow Tacos

At the Arboretum, colors and smells typically stand out as key features of plants. However, the monochrome of winter forces shape and texture to the forefront of observations. The dried leaves of Fothergilla are elongated with one rounded end close to the stem and another pointed end. A gentle fold along the leaf’s line of symmetry makes them a perfect candidate for snow-filled tacos!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPurple Cone Flower a.k.a. the Dangerous Lollipop

The smooth arcs of the snow taco greatly contrast the explosive energy of the Purple Cone Flower. Snowflakes have landed between spikes to form a snowy insulation. The cone flower resembles a lollipop of snow . . . but with very threatening spikes! What other imaginative look-alikes are in the gardens?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASquirrel Tracks to a Tree

 Disturbances in the snow tell a story: these tracks make a path showing repeated groups of four feet. And the path leads to a tree. Context aids in informing who made these tracks (rabbits don’t climb trees!) Squirrels scampering nearby are an additional hint. Fresh snow makes fantastic tracking and storytelling. Follow the trails, lean in to the tracks, and let the context guide identification.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATurkey Track on Three-Mile Drive

 Observing the contrast between untouched snow and snow that has been paraded through by wildlife is a fun way to learn more about the Arboretum’s winter landscape. What stories will you bring home from your Arboretum visit?

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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