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By Holly Einess
Much is in bloom right now at the Arboretum, in the more formal gardens near the visitor center, as well as in the natural areas along Three-Mile Walk. Taking advantage of all those blossoms are wasps, bees, butterflies, and moths, busily gathering pollen and drinking nectar.
Dragonflies use flowers as landing pads from which to survey the insects (including mosquitoes—yay!) they will snatch out of the air and eat. They dart out, capture their prey with their feet, and will often return to the same flower—a boon for photographers hoping to catch a shot. Blue dasher dragonflies, common in Minnesota, exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females look very different from one another.
A cluster of nodding wild onions near the Wildflower Garden offers a sort of time-lapse look at the stages of blooming. Later, I see prairie onions similarly in the process of reaching full bloom.
Last month there was an abundance of foxglove beard-tongue in the Prairie Garden; its blossoms have all disappeared, replaced by a sea of monarda. Also known as bergamot or bee balm, their lilac-colored blooms are buzzing with bees. There are lots of gray-headed coneflowers among the monarda, as well as cardinal flowers, blazing stars, purple coneflowers, and wild quinine.
A turkey vulture soars high overhead, its two-toned black and gray wings easily visible against the bright blue sky. A cedar waxwing clings for a time to the stem of an impressively tall prairie dock. Several goldfinches bob along through the air, one resting for a moment before taking off again.
In the Frerichs Garden for Wildlife, monarda is again the most abundant plant in bloom. And it’s not just a favorite of bees; a tiger swallowtail is also drawn to the flowers’ sweet nectar. While all male tiger swallowtails are yellow, with four characteristic black “tiger stripes,” females are dimorphic (that word again!) and may be either yellow like the male (but with a blue band along the hindwings) or black (still with the blue band).
The Pine Walk is a treat for the senses, the air pungently scented and the wind whispering in the boughs of the many coniferous trees. Birds seem to enjoy this area as well; chipping sparrows, eastern bluebirds, wild turkeys, an eastern kingbird, nuthatches, and chickadees all make an appearance as I stroll along, keeping me company on this lovely day.
Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.