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 Holly Einess
It’s a bright, breezy, beautiful fall day, the kind that lifts spirits and lures people outdoors to soak up the sun and autumn color. Three-Mile Walk is my plan, but I first stop to look out over Green Heron Pond, where a blaze of red foliage glows in the distance.
Goldfinches twitter madly as they fly about near the Sensory Garden, landing to balance on dried flower stalks swaying in the breeze. Two gray squirrels chase each other up a tree, embracing on a large branch before tumbling and rolling out of sight. Maple leaves in red, yellow, and orange dot the forest floor, and I take a moment to gather a few.
In the Prairie Garden very few plants are still in bloom; most everything has gone to seed. The dark pods of wild indigo, when split open, reveal the seeds within.
While some plants simply drop their seeds, others have devised ways to disperse them. The seed heads (or burs) of burdock, for example, have bracts with little hooks on their ends, which catch onto the fur of passing animals (or the clothing of humans) and get carried far from the original plant. Many fruits are enticing to birds, who eat the flesh and pass the seeds through their digestive tracts, again far from the parent plant. Still other plants, such as goldenrods, asters, and milkweeds, rely on wind to carry their seeds far and wide.
The pine walk is especially lovely today. Sights (varied shapes and sizes), scents (tangy!), and sounds (swooshing of wind through needles) combine to create a multi-sensory experience. A flock of dark-eyed juncos, outer white tail feathers flashing, flutters suddenly up from the ground. The birds were invisible until take-off, and manage to disappear again into the trees. One after another they return to the ground, scratching about for seeds and insects. These birds have just recently returned from breeding grounds farther north; some will spend the winter here, while others will continue farther south.
As I continue walking, the red barn of Farm at the Arb comes into view. Goldenrod is still blooming in the open, sunny fields, and I stop to examine a dark spot on the yellow blossoms. It turns out to be a jagged ambush bug, so named for its habit of sitting and waiting for other insects to come along (primarily small bees, moths, and flies), then grabbing and eating them.
As I near the end of my walk, I venture out onto the boardwalk, where I’m surprised to find marsh marigold in bloom! Usually associated with early spring, this plant can sometimes re-bloom in autumn.
The trees around Green Heron Pond display all the fall colors. Sunlight glistens on the water. An autumn meadowhawk flies by. I call my day complete, heart full and spirits renewed.
Holly Einess is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.