Nature Notes

Colors of Spring!

Intense shades of coral, neon yellow and bright white glow in the forest. Azaleas are in full bloom!

Visiting the Arboretum: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We hope to see you soon!

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Intense shades of coral, neon yellow and bright white glow in the forest. Azaleas are in full bloom!


Rows of lilacs scent the warm air near the entrance. Light, high clouds waft over the sky. The May Market is happening! Dozens of vendors offer artisan goods under tents. It is wonderful to see people shopping, visiting, and browsing again.

Wild plum

Wild plum shrubs are several feet tall along the edges and in full bloom. Their white flowers have a sweet scent.

Pink dame’s rocket grow in tall clumps outside the parking lot edges. Beautiful but invasive, it aggressively spreads seed, and can crowd out our native flowers, including the spicy-scented wild blue phlox that it is often confused with.

Barn swallow

A pair of barn swallows chatter from shrubs, then fly and flirt. Tree swallows fly overhead in smooth swoops near brush and over a nearby pond. And everywhere, red-winged blackbirds are guarding their turf with raucous “konkaREE!” calls. I also hear song sparrows, cardinals, red-eyed vireos, Canada geese, robins, chickadees, common yellowthroat, crows, blue jays, and cardinals.

Prairie alumroot

I find prairie alumroot poking above grasses. Its unusual green flowers march up the tip of its stem, and tiny red stamen peek out beneath the green petals. The prairie is only a foot or so tall right now, so I can see little pussytoes that are starting to bloom. These soft white flowers sit in a tiny bunch atop single stems. They bloom in small patches.


Tiny golden buttercups stretch their faces towards the sun. Spiderwort spreads its three lavender petals atop slender lance-shaped leaves that appear to explode from behind the flower. And prairie smoke are showing their lovely maroon flowers.


I escape the heat of the day to the woodland garden. Native columbine brighten the forest with brick-red outer petals and spurs, and inner yellow petals and stamens drooping downward. I have often seen tiny holes chewed into the spurs where nectar is stored, made by some precocious insect or bird as an easy way to reach the sweet treat.

Prairie Shooting Stars

Prairie shooting stars hang straight down from curved stems, aiming their little rocket-like flowers towards the earth. Golden Alexanders are in full bloom as well. Virginia waterleaf dots the forest floor with lavender. Dogwoods have started to blossom, and everywhere the trees are sporting fresh new leaves that have not yet reached their full size.

What a beautiful day at the Arb! Hope you can make it soon.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the program is available at

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