Nature Notes

Fleeting Blooms, Water Bugs, and Turtleheads

Several non-native plants are thriving along the trail, including velvet leaf, sowthistle, and flower-of-an-hour (so named because each flower blooms for only a few hours on a single sunny day).

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By Holly Einess

On this bright, breezy day I’m eager to check out the new Highway 5 Regional Trail connection, which runs through the Arboretum grounds and includes a sturdy boardwalk over a marsh/pond area. Goldenrod and asters are in bloom, being visited by bees. Several non-native plants are thriving along the trail, including velvet leaf, sowthistle, and flower-of-an-hour (so named because each flower blooms for only a few hours on a single sunny day). The latter is really lovely, and has interesting-looking seedpods, but like the others is considered weedy.

Flower-of-an-hour

The day is unseasonably warm, so I head for the shade of the wildflower garden. Up from the paved paths are dirt trails, along which several different kinds of mushrooms have emerged from the soil.

Mushroom medley

Descending to the stream, I spend some time observing water striders scooting along the stream’s surface. The combination of long, slender legs (which distribute their weight over a large surface area) and fine hairs covering the legs (providing a hydrophobic surface) enables these insects to walk on water. The middle legs are used for rowing, while the back legs are used for steering.

Water strider

White snakeroot is abundant throughout the forest, its small white blossoms glowing bright against dark green foliage. This native plant contains a toxic chemical that, when ingested by grazing animals, causes “milk sickness.” When people drink the milk of infected animals, they too will become ill. Milk sickness was a leading cause of death in the Midwest during the 19th century, and in fact claimed the life of Abraham Lincoln’s mother.

White snakeroot

Another native plant blooming right now is red turtlehead, so named for the blossoms’ resemblance to the head of a turtle. I don’t see any of this plant’s close cousin, white turtlehead, in the wildflower garden.

Red turtlehead

Having sufficiently cooled off in the shady woods, I head up to the prairie, where New England asters are drawing butterflies. A monarch and a great spangled frittilary land on the same plant, and the wings of both are looking pretty beat-up. The monarch, if it’s of the final (migratory) generation this season, may have a tough time making it down to Mexico for the winter. The frittlary has no such travel plans; she will lay eggs (if she hasn’t already) on or near violets. The hatched-out caterpillars will overwinter and begin feeding on violet leaves, at night, come spring.  

Monarch and great spangled frittilary

Spring feels a long way away on this hot September day; I savor the warmth, knowing colder days are ahead!

Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

5 comments on “Fleeting Blooms, Water Bugs, and Turtleheads

  1. Very nicely done, your photos are great

  2. Holly Einess

    Thank you, Dan!!

  3. Susan Bourgerie

    I really enjoyed your article and excellent photos, as they motivate me to get out and appreciate this season’s plant life, which I am not so familiar with. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  4. Holly Einess

    Thanks much for your kind words, Susan! Hope you get a chance to venture out and enjoy all that this time of year offers!

  5. Pingback: Arb Links, vol. 52 | News from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

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