They survived!

April 18, 2019

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

The day after we saw snow trilliums blooming at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, (see our post on April 8, 2019) a Minnesota April blizzard buried everything under a foot of snow.  As soon as that snow melted and the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden officially reopened, we went back to the Wildflower Garden to see how the snow trilliums had weathered the blizzard.  Still blooming brightly and true to their name, they had survived.  And so did we. Visit the garden in the next week or so and you can see these rare, endangered, ephemeral wildflowers, before they disappear completely until next year!

 

 

 

A Different Kind of Easter Egg Hunt!

April 14, 2019

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

Although last week’s snow dump is still slowly melting, we’re so ready for spring we set out Sunday in the hope that any flowers, but especially pasqueflowers, might be blooming. We’ve only ever seen pasqueflowers on two different hillsides near the Cannon River and once on a hillside in Central Park in Bloomington above Nine Mile Creek.  Because the day was gloriously sunny and the snow melting fast, we headed out to the Bloomington hill prairie. After a snowy slog down a trail behind a church, we came out onto a goat prairie, so called because only goats are said to be able to climb the steep hillside (we had no trouble with it). Watching where we stepped as we made our way through dried grasses, we found first one, then two, then many pasqueflowers opening their purple petals to the sun.  These flowers bloom even before their leaves grow, using energy stored in their roots.  Silky hairs cover every surface, helping to hold in any heat. We’ve been told that many pasqueflowers cover this hill, so we’ll be back again to see even more of them in bloom.

Seeing pasqueflowers in bloom was a fine end to a weekend that included the launch at the Red Balloon Bookshop of Phyllis’s new picture book The Lost Forest, illustrated by Betsy Bowen. The book tells the story of the Lost  Forty Scientific and Natural Area, so called because it was mistakenly surveyed as a lake in 1882 and overlooked by loggers for over seventy years.  Not only do pines 300-400 years old  tower in the Lost Forty, many spring wildflowers also bloom on the forest floor, including several orchids. Always one of our favorite places to go, we’re planning a June visit to see those native wildflowers blooming.

For today, we are gloriously happy to find pasqueflowers blooming on a hillside, not only because of their delicate beauty but also because seeing them, we know that despite any white stuff still cluttering up the ground, it must be spring.

 

We’ve included a map to help you find these pasqueflowers and here are a few tips to get to this location in Central Park, Bloomington:

Take 35W to 106thstreet, head west, go south on James Road (just past Humbolt) and just beyond Oak Grove Elementary School Forest sign you’ll see the entrance to Nine Mile Creek trail. Walk down the asphalt trail and follow the creek going south, cross the bridge and look for stairs on your right (just beyond mile 1.6). Go all the way up to the top of the ridge and the first park bench and follow the trail to the right. The pasqueflowers are in the open area slightly down the hill between the second and third park bench.

The easiest way is to go to Life Church at 2201 West 108th Street in Bloomington and park on the west side of the lot (farthest from the church where we have permission). Walk around the back of the church past the playground and follow the south ridge to the trail (don’t take the steps downhill).  Follow the trail past the first park bench to the second park bench. The pasqueflowers are in the open area slightly down the hill between the second and third park bench.  Use the faint path that loops out and back—pasqueflowers are delicate and some may be in bud underfoot when others are already blooming.

Snow Trilliums Abloom

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

April 8, 2019

Over the weekend we went in search of snow trilliums on a far hillside and found leaves, buds, but no blooms.  Two days later, we went close to home and found them blooming at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden—the first flowers on the forest floor.

We’ve seen them bloom through snow and after a late snowfall, and we’re eager to see how they do after the predicted blizzard headed our way later this week.  They’re not named snow trilliums for nothing, and our guess is they’ll be fine, they (or their ancestors) having survived this long in Minnesota’s fickle springtimes.

The Department of Natural Resources lists them as a species of special concern, at least in part because they have such highly specific habitats.  We’ve seen them growing on limestone cliffs but never in their other preferred habitat, floodplain forests (perhaps because we haven’t looked there yet).

And they are truly ephemeral–soon enough after blooming, they’ll disappear completely until next year.  Like other spring ephemerals, they have only a short moment of time before the forest leafs out to block the sun.   Snow trilliums make the most of their moment, bright white flowers against last year’s brown leaf litter (or sometimes snow).  And we count ourselves lucky whenever we see them, with or without snow. Preferably without.

SnowTrillium EloiseButler
Snow Trilliums at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, April 8, 2019

It MUST be spring.

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

April 7, 2019

It’s become an annual rite of spring:  going to look for native wildflowers when it’s still far too early for flowers to bloom. Over the years we’ve grown a little wiser –we no longer head hours north while snow is still piled deep on the ground here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  But inevitably, after a few nice days, I’m convinced the snow trilliums and pasqueflowers must be blooming, and so we head down to Hastings and Cannon Falls to see. Inevitably, too, we are far too early to see any blossoms, but that doesn’t stop us, even though year after year proves that just because the snow has melted doesn’t mean that the flowers are blossoming.  Two weeks ago, the pasqueflowers were the tiniest of buds on the hillside at River Terrace Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), and snow trilliums in Hastings were nowhere in sight.

This past Saturday we try again. At Grey Cloud Dunes SNA we see leaves of potential native wildflowers that we can’t identify, and a few, such as prairie smoke, that we can.  In Hastings, snow trillium leaves with tiny white buds are visible, and outside Cannon Falls some pasqueflowers are unfolding their furry leaves with a few petals turning purple.  Not spring yet, but enough of a promise to make us determined to come back in a few days, certain they’ll be in full bloom by then.

Really they will. We’re sure of it.

After all, it’s springtime, and we’re fools for wildflowers.

Imagining Spring

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

March 21, 2019

Since 2007 I’ve kept small notebooks listing the flowers I’ve seen (or my best guess at identifying those flowers).  In among the flower names are other observations: weather, wildlife, scents, sounds.

I’ve gathered up some of these images to imagine spring while we wait for the year’s first blooms:  skunk cabbage, snow trilliums, marsh marigolds, pasqueflowers.

Where spring begins:  the early woods

Pale sun lights up the wet leaves on the forest floor
Tiny scattered violets
False rue anemones like drifts of random snow
Gracefully falling soft yellow bellwort
A flood of Virginia bluebells abuzz with bees
A tree creaks
A bald eagle flies along the river silently
The river itself almost silent except where it rolls over stones
By a hillside spring marsh marigolds explode.
Each tree on the hillside wears a skirt of trout lily blooms

Sunlight through last year’s purple-red leaves of sharp-lobed hepatica
A colony of Mayapples in bud like commuters under umbrellas in the rain
By the edge of the ravine a small congregations of Jack-in-the-pulpit
Fern heads unfurling like a klatch of people, heads turned toward each other
Bright white bloodroot as though it has been dropped from the sky
A whole laundry line full of Dutchman’s breeches drying in the springtime breeze
A fat bumblebee diving deep into a blossom.

Tiny ephemeral pool among the roots of a plant
Clumps of frogs jumping
Geese calling, river running
A woodpecker rattles
A few gnawed bones

A day rich in dwarf trout lilies
their buds no bigger than the white part of my littlest fingernail
The green forest lit with flowers where before we saw only leaves
Spring this year breaks open my heart.

 

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

Winter Blooms

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

February 15, 2019

February—a meager month for Minnesota native wildflower seekers. Even skunk cabbage is still buried in snow, waiting out the subzero temperatures.

So we go looking for flowers in indoor places, beginning with the relocated Bell Museum. The incredible dioramas from the old Bell museum whose backdrops were painted by Francis Lee Jaques have been reconstructed in the new building on Larpenteur, and we wander from display to display, exclaiming over the wildflowers “blooming” in the woods and wetlands and prairies, as excited as though we were outside and seeing them for the first time.

Look, Virginia bluebells! Dwarf trout lily! Bluebead lily! Calypso! Bunchberry! And…wait, wait, we know this one, um…uvularia…bellwort! Our identification skills may have grown a little rusty, but a field trip or two once spring arrives will remedy that.

The dioramas also display birds and fish and mammals, but we are focused on the flowers. Where else can we escape phenology and see so many different flowers from different habitats and different seasons, all blooming at the same time?

Our second stop is the Como Conservatory, which we love to visit every February. The flowers here aren’t Minnesota natives, but stepping inside the tropical exhibit is like wrapping up in a blanket of warmth and humidity and birdsong. Lucky sloth, who hangs in a tree all day, soaking in all this sensory delight.

In the fern room we can feel our desiccated selves drinking in the moisture and greenery. The sunken garden explodes with scent and color—azaleas, cyclamen, pansies, lilies, amaryllis all in vivid purples and reds and fuchsias and pinks. And a wander through the rest of the conservatory takes us past so many orchids we stop trying to count.

On a cold February day, we are drenched in spring for a few hours, enough to last us through the rest of the icy days until skunk cabbage melts the snow away and snow trilliums bloom among snowflakes and another native wildflower season unfolds.

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

January in Minnesota

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo

January in Minnesota and not a flower in sight.  So Kelly flew five hours south to Costa Rica in search of sun, sea, and color. Although January is the early part of the dry season in Costa Rica, there were plenty of flowers and green to counteract the Minnesota white she left behind.  And she learned that, later in the year, 1300 different kinds of orchids will bloom in Costa Rica.  (Minnesota, by comparison, has 49 orchids.) Just as Minnesota’s state flower is an orchid, Costa Rica’s national flower is also an orchid.

In Minnesota coffee beans keep us warm and awake.  In Costa Rica in January Kelly saw the delicate blossoms that will become our precious beans, along with hibiscus, bird of paradise, red ginger, and so many more colorful flowers we have yet to identify.

Flowers are not the only beautiful things to see in Costa Rica.  You could easily mistake a colorful toucan for an elegant flower, and hummingbirds, like flying flowers, are everywhere—50 of the 338 known species of hummingbirds can be found in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica in January is balm for the Minnesota soul.  We are already scheming to take a trip to Costa Rica when we can go together and the orchids will be in bloom.

Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo