Nature Notes

Birds, Bees, and Flowers, Too!

Bright red royal catchfly is a hummingbird’s delight. It’s often thought to be carnivorous because insects become trapped on its sticky stems and buds. But according to Prairie Moon Nursery, it “does not gain nutrition from its captives.

By Mary Beth Pottratz

The forest is lush green under a baby blue sky. This morning’s warm temperatures are cooled with a light breeze and occasional fluffy clouds that provide shade.

Red Baneberry

Red baneberry have popups of claret-colored fruits above mounds of leaves. But I hurry past woodland towards the prairie, where I know there will be lots in bloom today.

Bee Balm

The scent of bee balm reaches me even before I see it! Also known as wild bergamot, its pastel lavender petals resemble a mini-explosion. It attracts bees and other pollinators to the nectar at the end of its long tube.

Birds are calling everywhere: eastern wood pee-wees, common yellowthroats, indigo buntings, song sparrows, red-eyed vireos, all accented with the raucous laugh of a great crested flycatcher and woven through the high pitch of cedar waxwings. The birds become silent one by one and I look up. Sure enough, a turkey vulture circles low above the treetops.

Pale Purple Coneflower

Thin petals of pale purple coneflower hang gracefully from deep purple cones. Just below that height, grey-headed coneflowers are in bloom.

Royal Catchfly

Bright red royal catchfly is a hummingbird’s delight. It’s often thought to be carnivorous because insects become trapped on its sticky stems and buds. But according to Prairie Moon Nursery, it “does not gain nutrition from its captives. After getting stuck, the insects inevitably die… It isn’t healthy to have rotting insects stuck all over it… the digestive enzymes quickly breakdown the insect bodies, keeping them from becoming putrid.”

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake master is about to flower. Northern bedstraw’s tiny white blooms wave in the wind. Dotted blazing star are already starting to set their buds. And wild quinine is flowering now too!

Purple and white prairie clover’s tall cones are mostly covered in flowers. Prairie dock’s buds are still tightly closed but rise 10 feet in the air!

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans are busting their buds now, too. And those miniature daisies of wild prairie, daisy fleabane, lift their little yellow discs to the sun. Bright red raspberries cling to thorn-laced vines and milkweed is already forming small pods.

Big Bluestem Seeds

Goldenrod galls – those round balls centered along a goldenrod stem – are forming already. A grasshopper clings for dear life to a blade of grass, eyeing me warily.  Nearby, orange flowers hang from the turkey-feet spikes of big bluestem. A clouded yellow butterfly nectars on a sunflower.

Whole-leaf Rosinweed

Whole-leaf rosinweeds raise yellow, daisy-like flowers high above the prairie fray atop telltale purple stems.  

Wild quinine are flowering. The tiny florets resemble miniature cauliflowers. Or wait, are those dollhouse chair cushions?

You decide!

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

1 comment on “Birds, Bees, and Flowers, Too!

  1. Holly Einess

    Wonderful photos and descriptions, Mary Beth! Can’t wait to get out to the prairie myself 🙂

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