Nature Notes

“Forest Floor Curiosities: An Un-Timed Field Trip on Neighborhood Walking Trails”

COVID-19 Update: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum reopened in a limited capacity on Friday, May 1. As a key part of the University of Minnesota’s research and outreach missions, we have been working with University leadership on a phased approach to ensure visitor and employee safety as we welcome you back. Find updates and information here.

Editor‘s Note: We know that staying connected to nature is important, especially as we cope with a global pandemic. Our Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers are finding ways to share their observations of the natural world beyond the Arboretum grounds.

By Sydney Chandler

Timelessness is a privilege to experience. It is to be released from the calls of a clock, to drop any demands of a schedule, and to simply experience moments as they come. Timelessness is also the opportunity to follow a curiosity, to look a little closer, and to ask more questions. As spring progresses forward, curiosity-inspired walks can change the pace and depth of exploration.

Purple spring ephemeral

The jack-in-the-pulpit plants are male or female. The male plants have a small hole at their base so that their pollinator can tumble down into the plant, get covered in pollen, and then escape at the base. However, the female plant does not have this discrete escape hatch, and pollinators die inside the plant. And yet, there’s more to ponder . . . Why are some so tall while others are so short? Why are some more purple and others more green? Why do some wrap their spathe left-over-right while others wrap right-over-left?


Other great finds on the forest floor include a collection of mushrooms and fungi. They pop from stumps and are in areas of leaf litter and rotting fallen trees. There are great colors, textures, and arrangements to see. Notice the tiny curls rising from the top surface of the pheasant back mushroom– it resembles baked goods turning a delicious golden brown in the oven! And notice how the water pools and shines on the surface during rainfall. See the connection to the stump and the texture change that occurs on the underside and mushroom. But also ponder . . . How big will this get? What animals eat it? Why is it growing here but not on the stump across the path? How is it attached to the stump? Are there roots?

Pheasant Back mushroom

Some questions are answered quickly and research comes easily while others questions are left to linger. Ironically, new knowledge often leads to even more questions. If you’re able, abandon your clock during your next adventure, and enjoy your own un-timed curiosity-driven field trip!

Ferns beginning to emerge

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

2 comments on ““Forest Floor Curiosities: An Un-Timed Field Trip on Neighborhood Walking Trails”

  1. Love the pictures. Would love to hear the answers to the questions.

  2. Beautiful! This gives me such a sense of wonder. Thank you!

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