Nature Notes

Working the Pandemic

COVID-19 Update: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is open in a limited capacity. Find updates and information here.

EditorNote: We know that staying connected to nature is important, especially as we cope with a global pandemic. Our Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers are sharing their observations of the natural world beyond the Arboretum grounds.

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Two and a half months into pandemic-induced isolation, I expected to experience the cabin fever typical of a long, cold Minnesota winter. I should be raring to head out for a walk, visit friends or take a road trip. But I find myself perfectly content to bring my laptop out to the patio swing and work the day away.


After all, what workplace surrounds us with flowers and plants? The fragrance of lilacs carries on the rain-fresh breeze, and I listen to goldfinches chortle, robins call “pip pip cheerio” and cardinals and jays take turns singing their arias as they visit my feeder.


I should be lonely and missing my family and friends. But all I need do is look around: the bellflowers and ginger are gifts from my friend Janet. Grandma’s daisies will be pushing up through the ground any time now. Another friend gifted the columbines that are in full bloom, and another the tall meadow rue that is forming buds at the tip. Purple coneflower and asters shared by a relative will be coming up soon.

My family and friends are right in my garden with me!



Common Violets

Bright yellow bellworts drooped downwards, resembling ringing bells earlier this month. But now, the petals have fallen, and miniature pyramids hold the developing seed. The base of the plant is surrounded by dark green leaves of common violets. Tiny purple blooms peek out from under the protection of leaves.

Wild Ginger

A clump of wild ginger has flowers that lay on the ground right at the stem base. One of the first to bloom, ginger seed is distributed by ants. This is not the Asian variety of ginger that we use in our stir-fries and teas, and our native ginger’s flavor is very mild compared to commercial ginger from Asia. Our native ginger can be toxic, so research and caution are advised. But the truly fascinating part of this plant is its unusual flower, a round ball with three sepals (or petals) twisting to a point.

Silver Maple

In a treetop nearby, a dozen or two cedar waxwings perch still and silent atop an aspen tree. A song sparrow serenades me from the shade of a silver maple. A pair of rabbits munch on dandelion leaves, and our resident chipmunk scurries about.

This is the best workplace I have ever had!

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

1 comment on “Working the Pandemic

  1. Shelley

    Thanks for sharing your peaceful place amidst the craziness of this current world.

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