Nature Notes

Already!

Snowdrops are already blooming in the woodland azalea garden! Although native to Europe and the Middle East, their early flowers and non-invasiveness usually steal the hearts of even the strictest native plant fan.

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By Mary Beth Pottratz

Tulips are an inch above ground in the sunny places! Snow has receded to the shadiest of edges although it is still March. With today’s slight breeze, hazy sunlight and 40 degrees, it feels wonderful to smell the earth again.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops are already blooming in the woodland azalea garden! Although native to Europe and the Middle East, their early flowers and non-invasiveness usually steal the hearts of even the strictest native plant fan.  But I head to Green Heron Pond to look for other signs of spring.

Mallard couple

The ice is out at Green Heron Pond already. A mallard couple swims about. Nearby a dozen geese rest in the water. A male and female hooded merganser paddle across, his bright white hood fully open. Some say the male displays its hood to attract a mate, others say it displays to ward off competitors. Watch its behavior and see what you think!

Nannyberry

A naked nannyberry still bears shriveled black fruit dangling from red stems. I wonder why the birds haven’t eaten them yet. This native shrub is usually a favorite of birds, and it has lovely poms of tiny white florets in spring. And right now, its buds are swelling. The terminal buds, or those at the end of a twig, have scales that burst apart and resemble an arrow.

Coyote scat

Coyote scat is visible now that the snow has melt. This coyote appears to have ingested a dinner of rabbit, but you can often find pieces of bones and plant parts when you scrape them open with a stick. Some may find it gross, but there are classes and field guides on animal scat that help us understand wildlife and their habits. 

Song sparrow

A song sparrow trills its lovely tune from a nearby tree: “Maids, maids, maids put on your tea kettle-ettle-ettles”! As it flies off, grasses trail from its feet. Nesting already!

Pasque flower

At the prairie garden, I am rewarded with the first fuzzy bud of a pasque flower peeking out of the earth. Those here are cultivated, and often earlier than pasque flowers growing in natural areas. But just another sign of spring already!

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the program and new virtual classes is available at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org .

4 comments on “Already!

  1. Thank-you so much for these posts. As I started reading this, I was thinking, ‘this is a nice warm fuzzy read’. And then you end the post with a ‘fuzzy bud of a pasque flower’. Aww, so cute. I’m so excited for spring!

  2. Judy Voigt

    It is a joy to read about spring through your eyes at the arboretum! I am excited to hear the song sparrow sing and say “ Maids Maids Maids put your teakettle ettle ettles. I love those phrases that help us hear the birds even if we do not see them. I always wanted to put Pasque flowers into my gardens but I heard they need very specific soil conditions and the can be hard to find. Are the ones at the arb cultivated as in not native to MN or cultivated because someone planted them from the horticultural trade instead of being naturally present at this site? Would they be a plant that is expected at the prairie site so maybe they found them in a remnant site nearby? I wonder . I will have to go see it for myself too. You inspire me to go to the arboretum😀

    • Great question about the pasque flower! There are about 30 species of pasque flower — some (like Pulsatilla patens) are native to the Upper Midwest, but many pasque flowers that are planted in gardens (like Pulsatilla vulgaris or Pulsatilla grandis) are native to Europe. If you get a chance to visit the Arboretum soon, there are many Greater Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla grandis) blooming in the Elizabeth Carr Slade Perennial Garden right now. Here’s a source for more information on pasque flowers: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/pasque-flower-pulsatilla-vulgaris/

  3. Pingback: Arb Links, vol. 42 | News from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

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