Birds call from everywhere as I enter the Arboretum. A red-eyed vireo repeats its series of short, clipped calls. Robins, chickadees, song sparrows and more add to the symphony that changes with each turn of the trail. With rain-fresh air, bright sunshine peeking out from fluffy white clouds and flowers everywhere I look, it feels almost like a dream! 

Tall spires of staghorn sumac are tipped with sulfur-yellow flower buds on stems covered densely with short hairs. Dwarf bush honeysuckle has started to sprout small lemon-hued buds on its tips. Pale beardtongue in groups of spikes sway in unison with the breeze. 

The bright blooms of dwarf bush honeysuckle light up the surrounding foliage while spikes of pale beardtongue sway in the breeze.

A few common milkweed plants sport green flower buds. This monarch magnet will supply adults with sweet nectar, a safe place to lay an egg and all the fresh greenery a little larva could need before its metamorphosis! 

Clouds of white rise above banks of northern bedstraw. Thimbleweed petals are starting to drop. Meadow rues have fringes that seem to dance jigs in the wind. Canada anemones hoist their five petals like stark white sails. 

But the best came next: Lady’s slippers! A greater yellow lady’s slipper was still in bloom in the Wildflower Garden. Its three ruffled petals jut out over its bulbous slipper. Nearby, red baneberry plants bear bright red berries. 

The pink and white showy lady’s slipper is also our state flower. This much-loved Minnesota native orchid is being researched by the Arboretum’s Plant Conservation Program. About two-thirds of Minnesota’s native orchids have been propagated through the program's work.

Lady’s slippers are blooming in the Wildflower Garden and along the Arboretum’s Bog Boardwalk. 

Large-flowered bellwort has green seed pods on stalks that perforate the leaf. The stems also perforate the leaves, causing a zig-zag effect on the slender stem. 

The leaves of large-flowered bellwort appear to zigzag along the plant’s stem.

The last remaining columbine flower still has nectar visible at the tips of its long spurs. The others now form five-sectioned seed pods to hold the seeds tightly until maturity. Lead plants have also started flowering. Such a soft and fuzzy flower for so toxic a name! 

White wild indigo plants stretch above the prairie. Each stalk is dotted with white irregularly shaped flowers, similar to a pea flower. After flowering, they will morph into oval matte black seed pods. The seeds must mature and become striated before they can germinate, grow and start next year’s dream anew. 

Columbine, lead plant and white wild indigo in various stages of bloom.

Cover photo: Showy lady’s slipper, photo by Lily Smith

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