By Mary Beth Pottratz
The sky is robin’s egg blue. Small white puffs of clouds float along the horizon, pushed by an ebb-and-flow breeze. The haze that enveloped us from the multiple California wildfires has been cleared by our recent rain. The temperature is balmy at 72⁰.
Trees and plants are lush right now, surprisingly so after the long drought in much of Minnesota. I listen to an eastern bluebird singing and chortling from a bench along the path. Even butterflies, dragonflies and grasshoppers seem energized by the freshness and moisture in the air. White snakeroot baths the forest floor in white. A red-bellied woodpecker calls, startling a nearby red-breasted nuthatch who complains back in its nasal “eek eek eek” call.
New England asters are easy to identify: deep purple ray flowers with bright golden disk flowers in the center. Goldenrods reflect the sun back. Bottlebrush grass has dried spikes branching out from the stalk.
St. John’s wort are now displaying bronzed vermilion seed pods on red stems. Prairie dock’s golden yellow daisy-like blooms are reaching their usual 12 feet in height. Some rise far above the prairie, and others lean slantwise on the plants below. Prairie dock leaves can be a foot wide and a foot and a half long!
I stop to see the wonderful display of plants at the tiny peat bog garden. Pitcher plants are filled with rainwater and still have some of their showy flowers displayed. Blue lobelia and white turtlehead are blooming.
Also, linear-leaved sundew grows there. It is the rarest of Minnesota’s sundews and is insectivorous. An interesting account of how this plant consumes insects can be read here: Drosera linearis photos Saskatchewan Wildflowers (saskwildflower.ca).
Golden Alexanders are beautiful this time of year. Their florets have fallen, and seedpods swelled. The stems and leaves are yellow and crimson, and seedpods are striped tan and chocolate.
Late summer plants are wearing their coppery tones now. After all, autumn is just ten days away!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the program is at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.