Nature Notes

As Summer Wanes…

The dahlia trial garden is buzzing with bees, flies, and hungry hummingbirds.

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Wholeleaf rosinweed rises tall above the prairie with its golden yellow rays. Its inner button of disk flowers are almost all occupied by orange beetles, each with a black dot on the back of its head, and two oblong ovals, one on the outer bottom edge of each wing. I wonder if there was a sudden hatch? Or were these beetles introduced to keep some other organism at bay?

Wholeleaf rosinweed

The sky is rich blue with fluffy cumulus clouds around the horizon. The summer heat and drought of a month ago have dissipated to plenty of rain and milder temperatures. Plants are lush and seem to have revived.

Monarch on Liatris

Blazing stars have purple pompoms on the bottom of their stems. Each pompom opens gradually from top to bottom on a stalk. Bumblebees and monarchs on the stems check each tiny floret for the sweet nectar that fuels them until monarchs lay their last egg and bees have delivered their last sac of pollen. A sandhill crane suddenly starts to call loudly and plaintively from the edge of woods and wetland, but I can’t find it with my binoculars.

Purple coneflowers

Lavender monarda, or bee balm, and purple coneflowers seem to be shouting their last hurrahs as they make way for goldenrods and asters starting to push up nearby. The bee balm still lifts its heady scent under today’s warm sunshine.

Brown-eyed Susans bloom in golden drifts in the prairie. Grey-headed coneflowers still have drooping petals like skirts that swish in the breeze. Goldfinches, chickadees, blue jays and an eastern kingbird call in this mid-afternoon sun.

Great Indian plantain

Great Indian plantain is flowering now, too, its stalks rising above my head. In a volunteer opportunity to help save seed of the Tuberose Indian plantain, a native plant with threatened status in Minnesota, we spent hours in the Arb’s Plant Conservation Program releasing tiny hairs from ripe seeds. It was wickedly difficult to clean, and the super-tiny hairs would cover our clothing, hair, and enter our mouths and noses. We would sneeze so much we laughed!


White and red baneberry display little bunches above berries at the tip of stalks. Also showing off its larger, bright red berries is a jack-in-the-pulpit, its leaves drooped beside it. White snakeroot has fuzzy little flowers at the tip of its stems, too.


Crabapples are bearing loads of seemingly still underripe fruit. The dahlia trial garden is buzzing with bees, flies, and hungry hummingbirds.

Summer’s richness is still here to see, with more buds on the way!

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

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