Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Going to the Bog, and Getting Small

I was told that the sundew were blooming, right exactly where I was looking several days ago. So I had to go back and look for them. I saw sundew once before, in a floating bog between Upper Hegman Lake and Trease Lake in the BWCAW. They were maybe a half inch, delicate and deadly. I had seen pitcher plants, but the snap-trap of the sundew seemed sinister. I loved them. I have been looking for the sundew in the Quaking Bog for several years. At last I found them today.

For scale, I've placed my keys near the same sundew as above. (Drosera rotundiflora) They are in a location where they may easily be stepped on, and I hope there are many, many more through this island of ancient bog - 3,700 years, according to a scientific study. When the many tamarack (larch) turn golden in the Fall, it is easy to see how Golden Valley got its name.

The other tiny thing in the bog were some violets I tried to photograph the other day, and I am glad it turned out this time. There are many kinds of violets, far more than I know, but I have been unable to find reference to a dwarf violet, and believe that these are stunted due to their growing conditions.

Just after I left the bog, I saw some cottony columbine I had to photograph. I've seen a lot of columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in Wirth Park this year, which I attribute to (1) being on the lookout for it, and (2) the removal of vast expanses of buckthorn, a plant whose roots give off a chemical into the soil that retards germination of other plants. Until about 4 years ago, it was still legal for nurseries to sell buckthorn, and many did. Customers demanded it because of the strong winter interest it displays, its quick growing habit and value as a privacy hedge. Now, we are left with the problem of removing it before it turns Minnesota's understory into a monoculture. A friend cheered my heart today when she told me that a landscape consultant informed her that a hedge in her newly acquired yard was buckthorn. She would, of course, remove the large planting and replace it with native plants like elderberry and snowberry. She will restore this one little tract to a place of beauty and charm and native plants.

This scene is less than 5 minutes from my apartment on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. Within 10 minutes of downtown Minneapolis, is Wirth Park, where yesterday I saw three green herons basking in the dawn in a dead tree (left standing for wildlife) and a nice fat woodchuck clambering around in a chokecherry tree, eating up leaves with tasty egg cases on them. In these woods are deer, fox, mink, raccoons and muskrats. There are also little brown bats, barred owls, scores of orioles, cardinals, blue jays, goldfinches, rosebreasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings and bluebirds. Those are just the colorful birds. There are many more as well - incredible diversity, and it is improving with each initiative the Park Board takes on to improve the health of this beautiful place.

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