Nature Notes

First Day of Summer

Mayapples in the woodland sport large pear-shaped fruit under their umbrella-like leaves. And red baneberry show off sprigs of bright red berries above its foliage.

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By Mary Beth Pottratz

Roses crowd the sidewalk in jewel tones and pastel hues, drooping from the weight of today’s day-long rains. But the prairie calls me…

Pale purple coneflowers

Pale purple coneflowers seem to dance in unison as the wind sways them. Lead plant blooms in soft spires of gray-green, turning lavender at the tops. Foxglove beardtongue sport white tubular flowers. Bright orange butterflyweed, a monarch favorite, seems to clash with the purples and lavenders of the prairie.

Graceful spires of white wild indigo rise above the prairie. Nearby a flash of black and white catches my attention. An Eastern kingbird fans its wings wide and swoop from its perch. It returns seconds later to the same plant top, only to flash its wings and white tail tip again.

Common Milkweed

The sweet scent of common milkweed carries over the prairie. I look them over quickly for telltale signs of monarch larva, but I see none.

Rattlesnake master

Rattlesnake master is nearly four feet tall already, with tight round buds starting to form. Its prickly leaves and unusual form make it easy to identify, but this plant is “Of Special Concern” in Minnesota, since it requires a prairie habitat.

Tiny white blossoms of wild quinine are displaying even tinier purplish styles. White and purple prairie clover bloom from the bottom of their cylindrical flower heads.

Tall Meadow Rue

Prairie blazing star plants – another monarch favorite for nectaring – are sending green spires up in the prairie. Grasses dip their seedheads towards the ground. And tall meadow rue is dangling its many stamen (this plant is a male), giving the flowers a fringy look.

Red banebury

Mayapples in the woodland sport large pear-shaped fruit under their umbrella-like leaves. And red baneberry show off sprigs of bright red berries above its foliage.

As I head home, I am delighted to hear indigo buntings dueting. One sits on the tip of a naked branch, from where I have heard an indigo bunting calling for years – except the last two. It is wonderful to sense the return of summer!

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

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