COVID-19 Update: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is open by reservation only. Find updates and information here.
By Mary Beth Pottratz
Bright sunshine and relaxed Covid rules draw me to the Arboretum today. At 74⁰, this is about as perfect as a day can get. Or so I thought…
Purple coneflowers are still budding. The flare of its ray flowers springing straight out from around the disk always strikes me with its unusual combination of precision and joy, reminiscent of a perfect ballet pose.
Pale lime-yellow seeds coat the spires of Culver’s root. Bending from the weight, they are highlighted against the marsala-colored dwarf honeysuckle shrubs. Red-osier dogwoods are sporting summery white berries. Insects chirp and whirr, and birds make their furtive little contact calls to each other. And it is wonderful to hear them all in the absence of highway traffic hum and roaring planes overhead.
Milkweed seed pods are fresh and green. This is the perfect time to harvest those seeds! And this link to the Xerxes Society for Invertebrate Conservation blog will explain how to do just that: https://xerces.org/blog/harvesting-milkweed-seed-pod-and-plan.
This is also the time of year that golden-yellow flowers dot the fields with their daisy shapes: Cup plant’s flowers stand 7 and 8 feet tall, and its leaves form a cup that retains rain. Rosinweed petals are pure yellow. Golden sneezeweed with dyed-to-match disk flowers reflect bright sunlight. Brown eyed Susans show off their brown disks set off by aspen-gold rays.
Other colors are less prominent but perfect, nonetheless. The creamy white of the endangered wild quinine’s tall rounded flowerheads don’t pop out of the prairie as do the brightly-hued flowers. Look closely. Each tiny flower is only about ¼” wide. Each is constructed in the same exacting way: five or six short petals surrounding a cushiony button with tiny dark styles sticking up. Pagoda dogwood leaves are just starting to turn their lovely purplish hues. Prairie sage glows light against the grassy green. Even red cardinal flowers have receded to the background, since only the last few flowers at the top are blossoming.
Monarchs seem to flit everywhere above the prairie. And no wonder! Spike after spike of several varieties of blazing star – that lovely monarch magnet – glow purple against the green. Some have wings that appear wrinkled, indicating they may have just recently eclosed, or emerged, from their chrysalis. Others are flirting and circling above the prairie. I hope they find enough milkweed. One monarch larva, or caterpillar, can eat an entire milkweed plant before completing its five instars and forming its chrysalis.
A painted lady also nectars on a blazing star while bees buzz by and usually leave quickly. They do not have the long proboscis of a butterfly to reach the tasty treat! Yet another way that nature perfectly matches the timing of a blossom with a butterfly’s need.
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program, and its upcoming webinar classes, will soon be available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.