Nature Notes

Camouflage

By Greg Lecker

Flower gardens are being uncovered; and tulips are sprouting.  Birds are calling and singing:  robins in the woodlands and blackbirds marsh and open forest edges near water.  On this gray day, I search for a bit of green in the woodland.

Hepatica Leaves and Flower BudsHepatica Leaves and Flower Buds

Joining bronze colored foliage remaining from last fall, hepatica’s new green three-lobed leaves have emerged. Looking carefully, I find the furry flower buds waiting for warmth and rains to activate them.  Hepatica is one of the earliest spring ephemerals, often blooming before the snow is completely melted in late-March. This year, bloom is likely to coincide with tax filing day or later; and flowers should extend into May. Downy flowers may be white, pink or lavender.

Like the young leaves of many small plants, the new foliage of Jacob’s ladder is a dull purple green – and so it attracts little attention from us or from animals that might eat the plant.  In addition to the color, leaves remain folded “fan-like” until they grow larger and tougher.

Miterwort FoliageMiterwort Foliage

 Brighter green than other ephemeral plants, spreading miterwort leaves are pushing aside forest leaf litter.  Miterwort foliage and flowers remind one of garden coralbells.  Leave edges are scalloped.

Bladdernut PodsBladdernut Pods

The medium orange color of bladdernut pods is fairly easy to spot.  Shiny spherical seeds rattle inside the pod.

Ice ShelvesIce Shelves

Most of the snow has melted from the woodland.  However, thick ice shelves remain in the channel.  Throughout most of the year, there is little flow in this brook.  During this past winter, however, much ice and snow fell. Through numerous freeze and thaw cycles, all of this water created thick ice shelves. Now that the level of the flowing water has fallen, these ice shelves have tilted and dropped into the channel. The ice is dirty; and so are the debris left from the flowing water and the eroded banks.

CamouflageCamouflage

Exiting the gate, I notice Canada geese in the wetland east of the driveway.  What perfect camouflage they have – even when standing with neck extended!  The body resembles a tussock of tan grass remaining from last year.

Inside the visitor center there is plenty of color in addition to scattered floral displays.  Minnesota Watercolor Society paintings brighten the Reedy Gallery.  A photography show in the cafe corridor offers visitors the opportunity to vote for their favorites.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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