Old Office in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Spring 1909

Preliminary notes about the plants. Native Status: Some of the plants obtained by Eloise Butler in the early years of the Garden were not native to Minnesota or if native, may have been difficult to establish in the Garden. Most of these are no longer present. Martha Crone was somewhat more selective of native plant material, but also brought in many non-native species, and many of her imports have not survived either. The plants illustrated here, so one can see what they looked like, are mostly of the class no longer extant in the Garden. Species still extant at the time of Martha Crone's 1951 census are marked "(M.C.)". As for plants mentioned here that are still present in the Garden today, there may have been numerous re-plantings, and most have a web link to a detailed information/photo page, or, if not, are noted as being present in the Garden today - these are not illustrated in this article. Botanical classification: Over the years Botanists have reclassified many plants from the classifications in use at the time Eloise Butler wrote her Garden Log or when Martha Crone prepared her census. I have retained the nomenclature that Eloise Butler or Martha Crone used and then provided the more current classification as used by the major listings in use today, particularly Flora of North America, and the Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota from the University of Minnesota Herbarium.

Squirrel Corn
Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis). Photo ©Elizabeth Parnis, Wisconsin Flora.

The spring of 1909 began a busy season of planting for Eloise Butler even as she was completing the year's teaching duties in the Minneapolis School System. Good snow depth during the early months of the year (over 10 inches yet at the end of February) and March rains brought plenty of moisture to start the spring season.

1909 is the year Eloise begins to publicize the Garden. This would take many forms over the years, principally exhibits, lectures, newspaper articles and essays for publication in the circular bulletin of the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter of the Agassiz Association. She began this year on Saturday evening March 27 at the Minneapolis Public Library with a lecture about the Wild Botanic Garden in Glenwood Park. Theodore Wirth preceded her with a talk on the entire park system. (1)

As early as April 4th, she reported planting some Geum triflorum, which is commonly called Old Man's Whiskers or Prairie Smoke.

Early Plantings not present today (see notes at top of page):

On the May 19th she planted a large number of species that she had arranged to be sent from Gillett’s nursery in Southwick, Mass. A number of these plants are not listed today on the Garden visitor guides. Many of these were native to Minnesota and a few were not. Of the plants received, some were introduced to the Garden for the first time in the Spring of 1909 (this being the first reference to them in her Garden Log). Here is a listing of most of those plants. If planted on a different date, that date is given.

Native to Minnesota:

Not Native to Minnesota:

Twisted Stalk Lily
Twisted Stalk Lily (Streptopus lanceolatus) Photo ©Robert W. Freckman, Wisconsin Flora.
Yellow Widelip Orchid
Yellow Widelip Orchid (Liparis loeselii) Photo ©R K Kupfer, Wisconsin Flora.
Narrowleaf Stoneseed
Narrowleaf Stoneseed (Lithospermum incisum) Photo Clarence A. Rechenthin. Courtesy of USDA NRCS Texas State Office.

A new fern, Slender Cliff Brake (Cryptogramma stelleri) came from Minnehaha.

Within several days she had planted all those listed above along with a number of trees and shrubs that were provided by the Park Board; these included:

Eastern White Pine,
Red Pine,
Balsam Fir,
Northern White Cedar,
Eastern Red Cedar,
Eastern Redbud [not native to MN but grown by the Park Board]
Canada Yew,
Sugar Maple,
Black Walnut,
Balsam Poplar,
White Ash
Green Ash,
Mountain Ash, believed to be American Mt. Ash.
Honey Locust and
Kentucky Coffeetree.

Some of these went into an area she called the “Pinetum” which she located on the west hillside overlooking the wetland. For an unknown reason she had also ordered Canada Yew from Gillett's and noted it in the May 19th log entry (see above) when they were available from the Park Board Nursery.

On May 28th she planted another large grouping of trees and shrubs including:

Black Willow,
Kentucky Coffeetree,
Honey Locust,
Common Locust,
Buttonwood (American Sycamore),
Pin cherry,
Black Cherry,
Choke Cherry,
Striped Maple and
Mountain Maple.

The selection from Gillett’s also included a number of ferns and fern allies, six of which were planted for the first time in the Garden. Only one is extant today. These were (Native status noted):

Throughout the spring she gathered plants from sites around Minnesota including Big Island in Minnetonka, Point Douglas, Anoka and Mahtomedi. Those still represented in the Garden today are:

Dwarf Trout Lily,
Heartleaf Foamflower,
Great St. Johnswort,
White Baneberry and
Dogtooth Violet (Yellow Trout Lily).

She also found it noteworthy to record seeing these birds: Indigo Bunting, Hermit Thrush, Peabody Bird, Myrtle Warbler, Maryland Yellow Throat and bluebirds.

Blunt-lobe Cliff Fern
Blunt-lobe Cliff Fern (Woodsia obtusa) Photo ©Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.
Silvery False Spleenwort
Silvery Spleenwort (Deparia acrostichoides). Photo ©G D Bebeau.
Braun's Holly Fern
Braun's Holly Fern (Polystichum braunii). Photo ©Eric J. Epstein, Wisconsin Flora.

Summer 1909

Arrowhead Rattlebox
Arrowhead Rattlebox (Crotalaria sagittalis). Photo ©J. Carroll, Wisconsin Flora.

Early and late summer during the early years of the Garden were busy with planting new specimens and transplants. In June Eloise Butler transplanted some lady-slippers from Anoka, MN; Hawkins, WI and Mahtomedi, MN. Most were the larger flowered Yellow Lady’s-slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens)
She also brought in from Mahtomedi, MN-
Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata),
Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis),
Tufted Loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrisiflora) and
Spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata). The last two and the Yellow Lady's-slippers are still extant.

During July and August Eloise was able to leave the Garden and return to the East Coast for a collecting expedition and a visit to relatives. This would be the last summer trip back home. Her love of tending the newly established Wild Flower Garden would keep her in Minneapolis during the summer months. Future trips to Malden MA would only occur after the Garden closed for the season. Eloise’s sister Cora lived in Malden, so of course Cora was in on the duties of collecting plants. Plants were collected from Round Pond MA, Stony Brook MA, Bear Hill MA, Appleton ME, Union ME, Winter Pond MA and Needham MA. The species count brought back to Minnesota was almost 60. She noted all these in her garden log for Sept. 4th.

Among these were plants still represented in the Garden today:
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis),
White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and
Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium).

That group of plants from the East Coast contained a number of plants that are not listed today on the Garden visitor guides (unless noted otherwise below). Many of these were native to Minnesota and a few were not. Of the plants received, some were introduced to the Garden for the first time in the Summer of 1909 (this being the first reference to them in her Garden Log). Here is a listing of most of those plants. Plants still extant are so noted.

Golden Hedge Hyssop
Golden Hedge Hyssop (Gratiola aurea) Photo ©Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.

Native to Minnesota

Hooker's Orchid
Hooker's Orchid (Platanthera hookeri) Photo ©Corey Raimond, Wisconsin Flora.
Coral Root
Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) Photo ©Robert Bierman, Wisconsin Flora.

Not Native (several species are questionable as noted below)

English Sundew
English Sundew (Drosera anglica) Photo ©Robert R. Kowa, Wisconsin Flora.

The selection from the East Coast also included a number of ferns and fern allies, of which these three were planted for the first time in the Garden. These were (Source and Native status noted):

From Mahtomedi again, she obtained Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii); planted more Fireweed and Wild Sensitive Plant [This listing is curious. Neither of the two varieties of Wild Sensitive Plant are listed as being located in Minnesota. She may have been referring to Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) which is known as Sensitive Pea]. From the parade ground at Ft. Snelling (a prime collecting spot for Eloise) she obtained Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

The summer was fine weather wise. Temperatures stayed close to average and there was adequate rainfall, including a 3 3/4 inch rain in mid-July.

Nodding Lady's Tresses
Nodding Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.
Cucumber Root
Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) Photo ©Kenneth J. Sytsma, Wisconsin Flora.
Indian Pipe
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora). Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Autumn 1909

Lowland Yellow Loosestrife
Lowland Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia hybrida). Photo ©David Seils, Wisconsin Flora.

The large assortment of plants shipped from the East Coast that was outlined in her September 4th Garden Log entry certainly occupied a lot of Eloise Butler's time to plant but by September 12th she was already recording additional plantings.

From the source in Mahtomedi again, Eloise Butler obtained Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) and planted more Fireweed. Additional sources of plants included the parade ground at Ft. Snelling, Minnehaha, Washburn Park, Glenwood Park itself (which surrounded the Garden), Glenwood Springs just behind the Garden, Lake Minnetonka and some East Coast nurseries. Plantings included these extant plants:

Blue Cohosh,
Canadian Milkvetch,
Cup Plant,
Jerusalem Artichoke,
Obedient Plant,
False Hedge Bindweed,
Common Moonseed,
Red Elderberry,
Sweet Fern, and
White Sage
Pale Corydalis which is no longer extant.

Water Shield
Water Shield (Brasenia schreberi) Photo ©Robert Bierman, Wisconsin Flora.

Here is a listing of the other plants introduced to the Garden for the first time in the fall of 1909 (this being the first reference to them in her Garden Log). All but one are native to Minnesota but two are questionable as to how they arrived - notes below. Only a few are noted as extant. (note 3)

The following two plants, were observed in the Garden for the first time:

On September 23rd Eloise recorded finding six giant puffballs with the largest weighing over three pounds.

Temperatures in the fall fluctuated above and below average but early October saw a significant dip below average and Eloise recorded a severe freeze on October 16. Precipitation was adequate and the year ended with a snow depth of over 10 inches. A major storm in mid-November dropped 10 inches of snow followed by several significant snowfalls in December.

Thus ended a year of major accomplishments for the Garden by Eloise Butler.

Lowland rotala
Lowland Rotala (Rotala ramosior). Photo Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
Bog Rosemary
Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia). Photo ©Joanne Kline, Wisconsin Flora.
Purple Milkwort
Purple Milkwort (Polygala sanguinea). Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.
Whorled Milkwort
Whorled Milkwort (Polygala verticillata). Photo ©Emmet J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora.

Photo top of page: The original Garden "Office" viewed from a woodland path - Photo taken by Martha Crone May 15, 1952

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Year chart - all years
Garden History Archive

(1): The lecture was announced in the Star Tribune on March 27, 1909 and was preceded by an announcement about upcoming Library programs published on December 27, 1908 in the Star Tribune.

(2): The experience Eloise and her fellow teachers had in collecting Squirrel Corn were written up in her unpublished “Annals of the Wild Botanic Garden.” This episode is contained in “Experiences in Collecting - 1911” in the Garden History Archive. The tubers were planted in the Garden on May 17.

(3): Some time prior to the Fall of 1909, Eloise had an earthen dam placed across a small water channel where water from the wetland drained northward. This structure created a small open pool in the Garden. The dam was located on the south side of a tarvia path that bisected the wetlands of the area from east to west. Beginning on September 12, 1909 she begins to reference in her log planting “in pond"; “by pond”; and “near brook below dam.” The Bellman article of 1913 describes this dam. See our history of the water and pools in the Garden in this pdf article.

Printable PDF file of this page.

Links to related pages:
- Abbreviated Life of Eloise Butler

- Martha Crone - 2nd Garden Curator

- Ken Avery - 3rd Curator and Gardener

- Cary George - 4th Gardener

- Our Native Plant Reserve - Short document on the origins of the Garden.

- Eloise Butler's writings, a selection of essays written by Eloise Butler on the early Garden years.

- Geography of the Garden- an illustrated tour


Garden Log - Native Plant Reserve, Glenwood Park, Minneapolis, MN by Eloise Butler.

Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.

Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos as credited and are used with permission for educational purposes, for which the Friends thank them and the organization providing the photos. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "http://www.friendsofthe wildflowergarden.org" - 051621