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By Greg Lecker
Autumn has progressed quickly. There is more than a hint of color in the woodland wildflower garden. Fallen leaves have partially covered the one-way arrows painted along the pathways. Rusty leaves litter the woodland hillside.
Asters are the dominant flower now; and their bright petals brighten the dulling foliage on the forest floor.
I know that these are not the large-leaved asters that I recently saw “up north”; but beyond that, I cannot further identify the species.
A narrow wood-chipped path – never taken – leads me behind the woodland pond I often enjoy from the other side. Fleeting sunlight dapples the path and tree trunks. The foliage of paper birch hovers midway between green and yellow.
Squirrels are raking the soil in search of nuts – especially black walnut husks that they struggle to hold onto as they bound along. A chickadee flutters amidst the spent flowers seeking seeds. Thin-leaves hang from stout flower stems. My gaze follows the stem upward until it skips from yellow bloom to yellow bloom.
Sunflowers – as tall as me – rise over the asters and prairie grasses. Their stems have rotated their blooms to greet the morning sun – faint as it is today. The strongest sun is working full-time during the week; yielding clear skies to either wildfire haze or filtering clouds.
The dark purple to violet color of New England aster contrasts against a grassy field that stretches until it wraps around a wetland now completely covered in duckweed.
A tangle of ivy, sumac and highbush cranberry leaves tumble over the path edge. Red cranberries sparkle in the hide-and-seek sun.
A flock of five Canada geese fly over me as I descend the shortcut steps back towards the parking lot.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.