Summer 2019 VOL. 67 No. 2
We don’t tend to think of the soil beneath our feet as a particularly busy place. Roots quietly growing, earthworms burrowing, seeds sprouting in silence…not quite. The mushroom equivalent of roots, called mycorrhizae, carry messages from trees throughout the forest, including ones of different species. Much like the Force in Star Wars, the mycorrhizae bind the forest together. If a tree’s leaves are being munched by hungry insects, a message goes down to the roots, which are enveloped by those fungal mycorrhizae and the warning is carried throughout the rest of the forest. The trees can then start defending themselves by producing unpalatable chemicals, like tannins, in their leaves. The trees pay for this service by feeding the mycorrhizae with the sugars their leaves produce. The research on this subject is so new that the publication Science had an article describing the first mapping of the wood wide web in May of this year in Science Vol. 364 May 2019.
If you’re an earthworm and don’t want to become dinner for a bird, there’s nothing better than tuning your whole body into a sort of ear to catch the lightest footfall from above ground. And it seems earthworms are smart enough to differentiate between the regular pat pat pat of a bird or small mammals’s footsteps and the pat-pat-patty-pat of rain. Down to hide, up to avoid drowning.
Seeds sprout and their roots start to grow. They also start to sing. At 220 hertz (the A note). They also use that 220 Hz as a directional signal. After all, if there are other roots in that direction, there may well be food and water.
No one seems to have worked out what prevents the roots from becoming entangled with those from other plants, but here’s a photo (below) of a time when, whatever it is, didn’t work.
During as period of drought, xylem cells (the ones that bring liquid up) send up bubbles that do what bubbles do…they crackle and pop! That popping sound notifies that wood wide web of mycelia which then carry the warning throughout the forest to start conserving water.
Some plants, called fire ephemerals, produce seeds that sit around in the soil until there’s a fire. When there’s a forest fire the parent plant isn’t going to survive.
But a chemical message (that’s the karrikin) is left on the soil surface. Later rains wash the karrikins down into the soil over dormant seeds.They get the message that it’s a good time to sprout. To summarize...
A murmur in the trees to note, Not loud enough for wind.... -Emily Dickenson
Diana Thottungal is a retired Garden Naturalist.
Intertwined carrots. Photo by James Thottungal
There are two wonderful announcements I am happy to make this issue.
First, with great pleasure and humility, the Friends want to express their gratitude to the generous anonymous donor of $50,000 to the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. This sum, received this spring, is truly meaningful for an organization of our size, and we definitely feel the responsibility placed in our hands to use these funds in the best possible ways to advance the interests of the Garden. We have hopes for collaborative Garden projects where this money can be put to good use. In the interim, we hope to strengthen our student transportation program that brings school children into the Garden for summer programs and also to continue our supplemental funding of planting projects in the Garden. Thank you, donor, for your dedication to the Garden and recognition of the Friends’ efforts.
Second, the MPRB has begun efforts to plan for improvements in the Garden! The Friends will be a part of this planning process and you can be too! Possible changes include reconfiguring the buildings in the Garden – rest assured the Shelter’s character will not be changed – but changes to the entry area near the parking lot may include a new building, improved pathways and stairs, and a gathering space. The MPRB is committed to incorporating input from users into the plan, and take your comments very seriously. One thing that is just logistically not possible for infrastructure reasons are hot water and flush toilets. Please attend the community engagement meetings and participate in taking the survey that will collect your thoughts about how the Garden can be made even more welcoming and continue to fill its unique role as a place of contemplation and learning.
Please visit and bookmark this site and check back there for updates: https://tinyurl.com/y3sqhmyo. More information will be sent by the Friends to those on our mailing list. To sign up, go here: http://eepurl.com/dHhaw9.
Below: The boardwalk dedication on April 26, 2019. L to r: MPRB Commissioner Jono Cowgill; Friends' Board Member Pam Weiner; donor Tom Hoch, MPRB Commissioner Meg Forney; donor Mark Addicks; Friends President Kathy Connelly.
The new boardwalk that was partially funded by the Friends has been dedicated and the Friends have held their annual member and board meetings (thanks to all who came!). We have said good bye to valued board members Betsy McNerney, Barry Schade and Jayne Funk, with thanks for their years of selfless service to the Friends. We hope they continue their involvement and support of the Garden. We also welcome a new board member – vice president Janet Anderson - who comes to the board with terrific experience, strong affinity for the Garden and a wildflower garden in the making at her home close in to north Minneapolis.
In late May, I spent a week in Ely, taking in the boreal forest, and enjoying a second spring. The flowering wild plum and juneberries are cloud-like puffs of white everywhere I turn. Nodding trillium, golden thread, bunchberry, blue bead lily, wood anemone, blueberries and fly honeysuckle were blooming during my visit.
When I spend time in an environment like this, I cannot help but think about the Garden. In particular I am struck by how artfully the Garden’s curators, Susan Wilkins and her predecessors, have crafted a setting that is cultivated, and yet so naturalistic as to appear untended. To be sure, the Garden is skillfully and constantly managed. Trees are taken down that could pose a danger to public safety, and efforts are made to contain plants containing skin irritants away from pathways. The results of decades of efforts removing invasive plants can be seen, as openings in the Garden are flush with new herbaceous, tree and shrub plantings, some of which have been paid for by the Friends. Look for new hemlocks in the Garden, a tribute to past president Pam Weiner sponsored by the Friends.
By the time this newsletter arrives in your mailbox, the lady’s slipper season will have passed, but the new boardwalk provides an incomparable urban opportunity to admire our state flower.
The wetland area remains a stunner all season, with flag, swamp saxifrage and buttonbush yet to come.
A particular success in the development of the Garden is the upland meadow, called the prairie by many. It is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of this part of the Garden. This issue highlights its history and its future. It is a beloved place, with spots to enjoy the special peace of the Garden. On any summer day, one can be lulled into a contemplative state by the insect hum and indigo bunting calls on the breezy oak knoll.
Our remaining Garden oaks persist through the efforts of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to protect them from oak wilt disease, and through the watchful attention of the curator. Controlled burns help feed the soil and rejuvenate the plant diversity in this area as well. The raspberry thicket and sumac invasion have been tamed. The sitting stone collection (1995 gift from the Friends) remains one of my favorite places to sit and look up at the solitary oak.
The upland garden is an important resource for native pollinators. At a time when other bloomers are winding down, the asters and solidago flowers bridge these beneficial insects to their winter retreat. Grasses burnished to bronze, rich gold and burgundy make the upland meadow the focal point of most late season visits to the Garden. Please celebrate with us this season as we recognize the important milestone for this part of the Garden by going up to the bright open upland meadow, and pausing to appreciate the many hands that wrenched, pulled, weeded, planted, cultivated, and tended the land.
Below: The large Upland Garden White Oak at the top of hill as viewed from the sitting stones that Kathy refers to.
Make a no-cost gift to the Garden by checking off the email option for the newsletter on your next membership renewal. Email subscribers to The Fringed Gentian™ help us decrease our printing and mailing costs, reduce our use of valuable environmental resources, and allow us to direct more of your support to the Garden. If you would like to switch to an emailed newsletter prior to receiving your renewal notice, or if you have questions about making this change, please contact Membership Coordinator Christi Bystedt by email. Members who already receive the Gentian by email have been very satisfied – photos are vivid, type size is easily enlarged, and there is no paper to recycle. We hope you will consider making this choice. Thank you!
A one day in the early 1990’s I was driving on the Gunflint Trail outside of Grand Marais, searching for a public wildflower garden shown on a hand drawn map. I never found the garden, but I never forgot the promise of that map.
Last year, while visiting friends in the Grand Marais area, I noticed a small brown sign off the Gunflint Trail that said “Wildflower Sanctuary.” With that map from long ago in my mind, I turned toward the promised sanctuary.
On arriving, I found the Sanctuary entry, and spent the next couple hours on the comfortably narrow winding paths. The sound of the Devil Track River obscured any sounds other than birdsong from nearby shrubs. The tree canopy rained dappled sun on large communities of native plants below paired with small unobtrusive identification signs. I was particularly struck by the outstanding clump of stemless lady’s slipper and numerous other Minnesota wild flowers. The Sanctuary also boasts a very large community of a rarity called black hawthorn.
Chris and Anne Hegg are the owners and stewards of this extraordinary spot. “The wildflower sanctuary began much like Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden,” Chris told me in a later phone interview. In 1958, a private individual, Lucille Hedstrom Walker, dedicated a two acre site as a wildflower sanctuary. Walker was a part of the Hedstrom family that has operated a lumber mill on an adjacent property since 1914. The local Garden Club tended the Sanctuary, but over time interest waned. Weeds and bushes returned, and paths became overgrown. In 1979, Grand Marais area residents began restoration of the Sanctuary. A dedicated group maintained it into the early 1990’s. By the 2000’s dead and dying trees covered the site, so in 2009, the Hedstrom company cleared them from the property. The Gunflint Greenup Committee planted pines and maples, identified plants that survived and trails in need of repair. When the Hedstrom family was selling the surplus land that included the wild flower sanctuary, Chris and Anne seized on the opportunity and purchased it in 2013.
Chris sees the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden as a model for the development of the Sanctuary. On his next trip to Minneapolis, he plans to visit the Garden to experience a designed and curated naturalistic environment, to give him ideas for the Sanctuary. He is concerned about the looming impacts of climate change, so in his plans he is factoring in the loss of some species while searching for what will replace them in the unique Arrowhead riparian habitat. He has heard people say that, as evergreens retreat north, they will be replaced by deciduous trees, but he is skeptical.
“There isn’t enough soil for oaks or maples up here where the pines grow,” he observed. “Plants are adaptable, to a point.” He has planted over 400 trees on the site – including red and white pine, tamarack, maples and cedar. He is watching to see what survives. The Heggs realize that the Sanctuary will need a devoted following to ensure it does not again become overgrown. It will require consistent tending and management to stand as an example of the diversity present in the northwoods plant community.
The Heggs hope to create an organization, like the Friends, that will take care of the Sanctuary in perpetuity. They also look to the history of the development of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, which was begun in 1907, as a model worth following, even though the Sanctuary most likely will remain in private hands, while the Garden is owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The Heggs recognize it has taken more than 110 years for the Garden to become what it is today including the efforts of many people advocating for and contributing to its survival and progress. The Sanctuary has moved partway through the same development cycle as the Garden has.
With dedicated advocates like the Heggs, its promise and potential are assured. The restoration of this northern Minnesota wildflower sanctuary is an important opportunity for the Grand Marais community and for those of us who love native plants and contemplate the changes that will come with climate changes coming.
In 2019 we celebrate 75 years since Martha Crone- Eloise’s successor- and Clinton Odell began weeding and planting what is now the Upland Garden. Eloise Butler had claimed to run a “wild garden run on the political principle of laissez-faire,” and while the garden under her management certainly bucked the trends of turn-of-the-century plant display, a garden run completely as “laissez faire” would perhaps reach the same state in which Crone found the upland: full of nettles, jewelweed, thistles, oaks and sumac; plants that do well in sunny, disturbed areas. By the 1940s, garden staff realized they had neither the time nor personnel to keep the wetlands now north of the fence more “garden-y” than “wild”. Odell proposed abandoning that space and adding the upland. Crone saw an opportunity to add color in summer and fall by adding prairie plants.
From the plum trees, the Upland Garden appears a sun-filled bowl marked out long ago by glaciers. These paths predate Park Board management (see Martha Crone’s photograph above). As you walk these paths, think about how they interact with the rise and fall of the ground. Do they feel like a smooth way to move through the space? When are they steep? When gradual? Consider coming to the Garden in the rain. How does water move through the upland then? Differences in light, slope and nearby plants create pockets for different species to thrive in.
Martha Crone tested these microclimates through her careful arrangements of new plants. Then, and today, garden managers add thousands of plants per year. Some were typical of tallgrass prairie, some of mesic prairie, which is wetter, and some of neither ecosystem. Some survived (the wild blue indigo, for instance) and some didn’t (pasque flower). Martha Crone often photographed lupines, clustered on a “Lupine Hill” which appears to be the south slope of Aster Aisle. We no longer see their commanding presence: like the pasque flower, they did not survive re-plantings.
We note bloom dates and plants found in the garden for many species, but not all disappearances are as obvious as the lupines. Susan Wilkins, the current Garden Curator, thinks the lupines might have struggled here due to climate change. Certainly other species also struggle to adapt to changing temperature and weather. Have other plants flourished?
Consider species like the Kentucky Coffee Tree, moved here from its typical range further south. This information hides in visitors’ memories of favorite plants or in the binders of phenology notes in the attic. While we dig through those, look for other purple flowers at the crossroads of Blazing Star Boulevard and Goldenrod Trail. Giant hyssop and wild bergamot, both in the mint family, have wonderfully textured leaves and flowers, attract bees, and smell lovely.
Below: Early Upland Garden map, showing features such as Goldenrod Trail, Fern Glen, and Aster Aisle.
The Park Board asked Crone and Odell not to remove oak saplings in the Upland. The duo seem to have focused on removing individual plants, possibly because management techniques like burning might not have been widely practiced yet. The Upland garden developed alongside the fields of ecology and ecological succession.
Techniques like burning became popular again for managing prairie and savanna, and in 1965 Head Gardener Ken Avery switched from mowing the Upland to burning. One of his notes on the process makes me wonder how oak savanna was understood at that time: “Many seem to think that fire is a magic word and you have only to burn an area and, presto! You have a prairie. I will agree that fire is an important tool in maintaining prairies but my experience is that fire alone will not do the job. Fire seems particularly ineffective in controlling sumac and oaks -- two of our greatest problems in the garden.” Did he not know that Indigenous people managed oak- based ecosystems with fire, to promote oak tree health? How did he view the ecosystems he managed as he focused the garden on native plants? His prairie burns, over time, would help spread out the neat clumps of plants Martha Crone established.
Martha Crone documented the garden seasons photographically, so we see how time and attention changed the upland garden. Her slides live at the Minnesota History Center in St Paul; it’s worth taking an afternoon to request the box from storage and lay out the slides on a light table. The orange plants in her photos are “butterfly flower,” Asclepias tuberosa, a type of milkweed. It’s still in the garden, though notice how plants are laid out differently in the photo than they appear today. Asters, goldenrods and blazing star now intermingle on their namesake paths. With a hand lens and some patience, even an amateur botanist can practice differentiating species by color, texture and pattern. The prairie dock, the cup plants, the Michigan and Turk’s cap lilies- these flowers fill the skyline by late summer along the Prairie Path.
Martha Crone planted the prairie dock in the upland, and its distinctive basal leaves and long stems clearly name at least one yellow composite flower. Other yellow flowers (genus Heliantus) throughout the Upland have interbred over the years, complicating precise identification. This garden holds old stories in new configurations. We know it will change again over the next 75 years, as Minneapolis changes in both culture and climate.
Annelise Brandel-Tanis is a Garden naturalist.
More information on the development of the Upland Garden HERE
Board Member Lauren Husting has answered questions from Candy Bartol about her profession and how she became interested in our Garden.
Q: Tell what drew you to trombone and a road to making it a life skill.
A: By 7th grade, my band had too many flutes and not enough low brass instruments, so I volunteered to change. I’ve never regretted it. When it came to deciding what to pursue in college, I was torn between biological sciences and music. Ultimately I chose music because I love the community and sharing music with others. I earned degrees in Trombone Performance, an undergraduate from UW Madison and a masters from the University of North Texas. UNT was a big deal for me because it’s an amazing music school, with a trombone studio that is one of the country’s best. I’m still performing today, I think, due that special push from the faculty there. I was never drawn to orchestral performance, but love chamber music and solos. Most of what I do is freelance, jazz, or pop. I make money from teaching private lessons, allowing me time to practice, rehearse with bands, and play what I want to play.
Q: What’s so special about the trombone?
A: Trombone sits in the tenor register, and, especially in choirs or chamber groups, sounds like a chorus. People think of it as a loud, comical instrument, but many composers over the years have understood its powerful lyrical and golden sound.
Q: So far what are highlights playing trombone?
A: I’ve been lucky to have so many amazing moments in my career. My favorites are performing for big, enthusiastic crowds as part of Brass Lassie and chances to make new, improvisatory music. I work with local composer Dameun Strange, playing his experimental, soul-affirming music has been one of the highlights of my career in recent years.
Q: Talk about rewards gained from teaching students.
A: When I realized you have to learn to teach just like any skill, I understood what educating could mean for me. I now love coming up with new solutions for students, helping them see their potential, and giving them tools to use their whole lives. My favorite memories with students involve those ‘aha!’ moments, but I also love when they express what music means to them.
Q: Have you played your trombone in the Garden?
A: I have not! I value the Garden so much as a peaceful, natural place, that I think trombone would be disruptive.
Q: When did you discover the Garden and kept you coming back?
A: About 10 years ago, I was taking a bike ride down Wirth Parkway and saw the sign. With nowhere to be, really, I pedaled up the driveway and walked into a world full of magic. I had no idea such a place could exist in a city. I became a regular visitor for a few years before deciding to volunteer. I was looking for something outside of music to do, and with liberty in my schedule, hoped I could give something back to a place that had been a refuge for me. Every season at Eloise is different. Some years I encounter so many creatures I feel that magical interconnectedness of our planet deeply. Other years I spot flowers I’ve never seen before and add them to my repertoire of knowledge. Becoming a part of the Friends Board means I can increase how to give back to the Garden through activism. I have made great friends of the naturalists on staff in recent years and cherish those relationships. It all takes me back to the teenager who also loved biological science and allows her to enjoy that many years later.
Q: What do you like to do while visiting the Garden and why?
A: I try to walk every path so I don’t miss anything! By now I’m pretty good at knowing where to go for specific blooms, and I try to come every week to really experience the seasons’ changing. It’s a ritual for me. It helps me stay connected to the world around me and brings me down to earth (quite literally!)
Q: Why did you take on this new role distributing Garden information out to a wider audience through MailChimp?
A: Because it’s so important to me to know what’s going on each week, I’m hoping I can highlight some of our smaller features. I love the lady slippers and the prairie in August, but I also relish basking in the wild geraniums, watching bees pollinating the turtleheads, and poking at funky slime molds and mushrooms. I want other people to know they can come anytime during the open seasons and maybe make new discoveries as I have. If you are a member of the Friends, your email will automatically be added to our list. If you have any questions, suggestions, or aren’t getting emails but think you should be, email me. We are stronger together, so I hope more frequent communication from the Friends Board will unify our organization and help us represent the Garden for many years to come.
Candy Bartol is a director of the Friends and copy-editor of the newsletter.
Lauren Husting is a Friends director and handles media communications to our subscribers. She was previously Volunteer Coordinator.
The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Minnesota nonprofit corporation, formed in 1952. Our purpose is to educate by enhancing Garden visitors’ appreciation and understanding of Minnesota’s native plants and natural environments and to offer assistance for the Garden in the form of funding and other support.
The Fringed Gentian™ is published for members and supporters of the Friends.
Bob Bowman, Kathleen Husting, Thea Evans, Christi Bystedt, Marcy Chamberlain, Valeria Dockter, Wendy Durst, Robert Ambler, Pamela Layton, Julie Honebrink.
George Bloom, Chris &Judy Christian, Sandy Almquist & Ann Rubin, Barbara Hendrickson, Ivan & Rachel Bialostosky, Mary Guzowski & James Lindbeck, Sandra Puckett, Brickwedde Levin Family.
Nancy Eicher, Mary Dolan, Lynn Wallin, Sandra Dowd.
George Huser & Dale Wiehle.
Membership information for
Joining the Friends
Renewing your membership or
Making a gift membership
Can be found on our Website Membership page.
Information on paying by check or by credit card is found there also.
For changes to your mailing address or email address, please contact Membership Coordinator Christi Bystedt at this email address. or Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Membership, P.O. Box 3793, Minneapolis, MN55403-0793.
for Margaret Setterberg Lanning from LouAnn Lanning.
for Sue Merriman from Ferrand Anderson
for David R. Odlund Sr. from Marguerite Sullivan & David Weiser
for Catherine Rudberg from Jim & Cherryl Penkivec; Tamara & Douglas Schlute & friends of Jim Rudberg; Susan Teeter; Audrey Rudberg; Mary Couser; Lynn Sommer; Ruth William; Lois Dick.
for Pat Sjoquist from Adrienne Cummins; Nancy & Phil Tschumperin; Steven Matuszak; Barbara Pappenfus; Michael Hildebrandt; Daniel Jacobson; Amy Pumarlo; Delores & Thomas Scanion; Marguerite Sullivan & David Weiser.
Ivan and Rachel Bialostosky
J. S. Futcher
Nancy and Jack Garland
Cindy Johnson & Vic Thorstenson
Mendon Schutt Family Fund
Donald & Susan Nevin
Maryellen Skan & Peter Thiel
Details on how to make a donation or a memorial and what The Friends do with the funds can be found on our Website Donations Page
Please consider a gift in your estate plan to benefit the Garden. Gifts to Friends of the Wild Flower Garden are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by Minnesota and federal law for gifts to charitable organizations. Friends of the Wild Flower Garden has been approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization since 1953. Gifts can be made through your will, revocable living trust, retirement plan or life insurance. Leave a gift for the Garden in your will or revocable living trust by a provision such as “I give $ to Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc., to benefit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.” Or name Friends of the Wild Flower Garden as a beneficiary of a portion of your life insurance or retirement account.
If you have questions, please call Friends Board member Steve Pundt at 612-333-1900 or email him. Thank you for helping us fulfill our mission to preserve and protect the Garden!
Fall colors in the Upland Garden - view from the bench on the far hill looking south. Photo: Kari Ramstrom
The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary comprises cultivated but naturalistic woodland, wetland and prairie environments, 2/3 mile of mulch covered pathways and a rustic shelter where educational programming and materials can be found. It is the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States, established in 1907. The 15-acre site is located within the city of Minneapolis and is owned and operated by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. The Garden is open from April 1 through October 15 from 7:30 a.m. to a half hour before sunset. Weekends only October 15 to October 31.