Nature Notes


By Greg Lecker

The weather is perfect for Mother’s Day.  Under clear blue skies and sun, daffodils, tulips, magnolias and crabapple are blooming.  Along the flowing waterways are blooming clumps of yellow buttercup-like flowers that reflect the color of the sun – marsh marigold.

Marsh MarigoldMarsh Marigold

There are many possible origins of the name “marigold”.  One origin is that of an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “marsh-gold”.   I like the stories that associate the many flowers bearing the name “marigold” and their bloom time with the many festivals named for the Christian saint Mary.  The genus name Caltha in Latin means cup or, as William Shakespeare would poetically describe, “chaliced”.

“And winking Mary – buds begin

to open their golden eyes;

with everything that pretty is

my lady sweet arise.”

– William Shakespeare

Another fitting Shakespeare quote comes from his play “A Winter’s Tale”:

“The Marygold that goes to bed with the sun, and with him rises weeping.

Shakespeare could be describing a common trait among flowers that close their blossoms at night and open them in the morning.  Certainly, marsh marigold also sheds water droplets from its shiny leaves upon which water beads.

The bird songs of robin, chickadee, and blackbird abound; however, the chorus frogs drown out their music with a surprisingly loud refrain. Their spring call resembles that of one’s fingernails drawn along the teeth of a comb.  The sound envelopes one on approaching its source – until one nears the large pond nestled in the heart of the woodland.  The volume drops as individual frogs stop calling – until there is silence.  Their song starts up again only after one departs (or lies very still along the path waiting to record their song).

At the wildflower garden entry and along its pathways, one notices new sign posts and pathway labels that guide one along three mile hike – a walking loop that parallels three mile drive.  Though the route has always existed, visitors can now confidently walk a path that is separated from the vehicular path.

Ravine StreamRavine steam viewed from Three Mile Hike

Exiting the shade along the ravine stream, one enters the sunny Capen display garden across the road from the prairie.  In the circular garden encircled by the soon to be flowing water feature are pasque flower.

Pasque FlowerPasque Flower

Appearing somewhat like a wild and faded crocus, pale blue or purple to white flowers consist of petal-like sepals encircling a yellow center.  Tiny silvery soft hairs cover the plant, possibly trapping life-giving heat next to the plant while it blooms in early spring.  Depending on the year and the region, the celebration of the Christian Easter (Paschal) season coincides with the plant’s blooming.

Next to the pasque flower are a clump of pussytoes.

Pussy ToesPussytoes

Pussytoes is a small flower of our prairies and other dry sunny openings and rock outcroppings.  A dense covering of hairs covers this early blooming prairie plant.  Flowers consist of a 1” round cluster of three to ten white, fuzzy bristles that resemble a cat’s paw, thus earning the flower its name.

Inside the Oswald Visitor Center, make sure to visit the Reedy, Cafe, and nearby bridge galleries to enjoy botanical watercolor and rich oil paintings of trees and flowers!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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