Arboretum News

Spring Break at the Arb

Make plans to visit the Arboretum during your spring break staycation. Minnesota teachers receive free admission to the Arb in March, and there's lots of kid-friendly activities for children.

COVID-19 Update: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Find updates and information here.

By Liz Potasek

If you’re sticking around town for Spring Break this year, make a break for spring at the Arboretum. Minnesota teachers and educators can receive free admission to the Arboretum during the month of March (see details below), and there are plenty of fun, educational opportunities for children, as well. Here are four ideas to get you started (and make sure to check out our 12 Things to do in March 2021 for more inspiration):

Black-capped chickadee. Photo by Holly Einess.

Watch for birds and animals.

Even in the winter, there are still signs of animal and plant life. On a recent walk we noticed and identified multiple animal tracks in the snow, as well as other signs of animals.

Explore the Johanna Frerichs Garden for Wildlife to learn about ways to make your own yard and garden more friendly to animals, and check out the nearby Crabapple Collection to see who’s still dining on last season’s crabapples. (Both the Garden for Wildlife and Crabapple Collection are accessible along Three-Mile Walk.)

Make a list of all the birds you find on the grounds or download this bird checklist. Many birds at the Arboretum like to visit the bird feeders we’ve set up near the Ordway Picnic Shelter, Garden for Wildlife and outside the Arboretum Cafe, as well as natural food sources, like crabapples and spruce cones.

Observe plants in winter.

Although many plants are dormant right now, you’ll can still find small signs of plant life as you walk through the grounds.

Witch-hazel near the Snyder Building blooming in late March of 2019. Photo by Susie Eaton Hopper.

The first large shrub/small tree to bloom each season at the Arb is the Ozark witch-hazel (Hamamelis vernalis). It’s small, spidery blooms, which should appear on trees in the Home Demonstration Garden and at the very end of Three-Mile Walk near the Ordway Picnic Shelter this month, might be easy to miss if you don’t know to watch for them. [Fun fact: Another witch-hazel variety, Common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), is the latest tree to bloom at the Arb — sometimes blooming as late as early December.]

Pussy willow (Salix discolor) in bloom on April 8 of 2020. Photo by Alan Branhagen.

After the witch-hazel blooms, turn your attention to the Bog Walk, and watch for the pussy willow blooms. Pussy willow (Salix discolor) is the first to bloom followed by Bebb Willow (Salix bebbiana). These serve as a critical first pollen and/or nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. If they aren’t blooming when you visit, you might be able to catch them in the cute, fuzzy pre-bloom stage in late March.

Magnolia buds on a tree in the Woodland Azalea Garden. Photo by Liz Potasek.

Magnolia trees are among the first trees to bloom at the Arb, but we don’t expect to see their showy flowers until mid-April. Watch for the fuzzy buds adorning the trees, and dream about the blooms to come.

Snowdrops bloom as soon as the snow melts, often showing up in March. Photo by Christopher Hall.

As the snow begins to melt in late March and early April, watch for tiny, delicate snowdrops. These flowers, grown from bulbs, are one of the first signs of spring each year.

Update March 10, 2021:
Ozark Witch-hazel (or Vernal Witch-hazel) is blooming, and the first snowdrops have started blooming, as well.

Ozark Witch-hazel blooming at the Arboretum in March 2021. Photo by Alan Branhagen.
Our first snowdrops of the 2021 season! Photo by Alan Branhagen.

Learn how maple sap becomes maple syrup.

Take a self-guided maple syrup walking tour with your smartphone using our Arboretum digital map.

Buy some Arboretum maple syrup to take home in the Arboretum’s Gift & Garden Store. The store also carries tree-tapping supplies, as well as a variety of books about maple syrup for children and adults.

Artist Peyton Scott Russell working on the installation of Breakout Creations: DASKARONE – Art of Graffiti, on display through March 14 in the Reedy Gallery. Photo by Emily Treptow.

Appreciate art.

The Reedy Gallery features two art exhibits this month. Through March 14, check out Breakout Creations: DASKARONE – Art of Graffiti, an exhibit by Minneapolis artist Peyton Scott Russell. From March 18-April 15, work from local artists in the Minnesota Watercolor Society will be on display as a part of a juried show.

Outside, the Harrison Sculpture Garden is a delightful place to visit year-round. Stroll through the sculpture garden on the high point of the Arboretum, and make up stories for each of the sculptures or research the artists, who created these works in the past 100 years.

Free admission for Minnesota educators

All teachers, teacher aids, as well as those working within public or private school systems, in Minnesota (pre-k through university settings) can make free reservations to visit the Arboretum by calling 612-624-2200 to reserve a specific one-time visit from March 1-31. They’ll be emailed a ticket to show at the gatehouse, along with their employee ID.

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