By Greg Lecker
Even with the snow and cold of the past weekend, the Arboretum is worth a visit. By the time of my Saturday morning visit, Three-Mile Drive had been plowed; and crews were working on clearing pathways for the few of us visitors.
Blue sky struggles against diffuse clouds.
From a distance, trees appear to tipped with white frost. But close-up; one sees that it is ice from weeks ago and a bit of new sticky snow. Overnight, freezing mist had added to the ice coating tree twigs.
Where wind knocked twigs together; pieces of ice fell off. Studying the branches, one finds that about one-sixteenth of ice had coated all twigs. The same ice had also collected on seed heads which now also attracted a frosting of snow as well.
The fresh fallen snow has been crusted over by the freezing mist. The new snow is welcome news for cross-country skiers and snowshoe hikers. Whether it is because of the cold or the crusty snow; I see and hear little wildlife. Turkeys are the exception! There were several at the front gate – “our greeters,” the gate attendant called them. Outside the cafe, one turkey stands and sits atop the post-top bird feeder. The bird stretches its head and neck into the feeder. And yet, it senses my presence and movement – though the feeder and the café window glass separate us. The bird abruptly jolts and warily looks around.
Outside the visitor center, one lone person walks amid the landscape – and shames me for having gone inside to warm up and enjoy the Arboretum Photographers Society show in the Cafe Gallery. I go back outside to practice my own photography.
Evergreens are decorated with snow. One attracts my attention. Because of the distinct shape its cones, I identify it as a Douglas Fir.
Downhill, next to the Iris Pond, are evergreen trees with much smaller cones. They are arborvitae – and their lower foliage has been sheared off by white tailed deer. Also called Northern White Cedar, the trees provide valuable shelter and browse in winter. These shelters are called “deeryards” – and I can see how this hollow would protect one from the winter winds and snow!
The tree foliage and adjacent sapling stands produce a great amount of food for deer and red squirrels. Considering that I’m slightly hungry myself, I head back to the gate of the deer exclusion fencing, and walk through the gardens to the cafe for a snack!
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.