The Old Office

1935 History
of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1934/1935

The Old Office
The Garden Office on March 9, 1953, photo by Martha Crone.

1935 was Martha Crone’s 3rd year in charge of the Garden, which now began its 29th year.

While Garden Curator Martha Crone was busy with other things in her life, the Garden was closed for the winter season, but unlike the previous winter, the resting plants were blanketed with snow from December 1st, 1934 until almost the end of February. At the end of December, 1934 there was six inches of snow cover which increased to 15 inches by the end of January, all due to heavy snows in early December and the first half of January. Following the snow there was a deep cold snap in the last half of January with temperatures reaching the minus 20s several days and minus 31 degrees one night. Early February, however, was warmer than average, melting the snow cover, but there were several significant snow falls in March and April with last being three inches on May 1st. The ample precipitation and warmer temperatures would result in an early bloom of the first spring plants in the Garden. Martha's position this year would continue be "temporary" Curator. (note 1)

Spring 1935

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 species not native to the state, 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. Some of those plants still existed at the time of Martha Crone's 1951 Garden Census and they are identified by the "(M.C.)" following the plant name. 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.

Tobacco Root
Tobacco Root (Valeriana edulis). Photo © Derek Anderson, Wisconsin Flora.

Curator Martha Crone Opened the Garden for the season on April 1st and noted that many birds were already present in the Garden and the pond was ice free. She found patches of Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) in bloom with one patch having over 70 blossoms, but it began to snow and soon all were snowed under. By April 4th the pond had 1/2 inch of ice and it snowed six inches that day. Like many spring seasons, it melted the next day and heavy rains occurred on the 11th with frost at night.

On April 14, she planted 15 Pasque Flowers (Anemone patens) that came from a source in Fridley and also noted the presence of Myrtle Warblers in the Garden. The weather was just not cooperative as the temperature plunged 40 degrees that day to a low of 22. But still the Bloodroots bloomed. The next day was bitter cold, 16 degrees, and now there was 3/4” of ice on the pond. The Snow Trilliums didn’t mind and were still in bloom.

On the 22nd she transplanted the 36 small Kentucky Coffeetree ( Gymnocladus dioicus) that had been acquired the previous fall and heeled in over the winter.

Crested Wood Fern
Crested Shield Fern (Dryopteris cristata). Photo ©G D Bebeau

May began with several inches of snow, the last significant snowfall of the spring. By May 4th she noted a bluebird nesting in the nesting box next to the office. Her May plantings included some plants she had not previously planted in the Garden although all were previously in the Garden during Eloise Butler's tenure:

All are native to Minnesota except for the Fire Pink and Live-forever. She does not list her source for those last two plants, but all the remainder are from local metro area sources.

On June 1st she planted some Geum triflorum, which she called Purple Avens - a common name that is sometimes applied to Geum triflorum but more correctly belongs to the similar Water Avens, G. rivale. We believe she planted G. triflorum as Miss Butler had also established some of these plants years earlier. They are not a long-lived species if crowded.

There were good rains in May and early June to help the plants along, ending a drought that had persisted during the early 1930s. Large quantities of morel mushrooms were found this spring.

Prairie Smoke
Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum). Photo ©G D Bebeau
Fire Pink
Fire Pink (Silene virginica). Photo ©Kyle Steele, Wisconsin Flora.
Live-forever (Hylotelephium telephium ssp. telephium) Photo ©G D Bebeau

Summer 1935

Martha Crone
Martha Crone after the robbery with her empty purse. Minneapolis Star photo.

In June Martha obtained 24 clumps of Yellow Lady’s-slipper Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (the larger flower version). [Old - Cypripedium calceolus]) to plant on the 8th. Then on June 13, Gertrude Cram brought in 2 plants of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) and after planting them Martha and Gertrude were held-up at gunpoint at 10:30 AM by two young men who appeared to be students and robbed them of $7. A photo of Martha appeared in the Minneapolis Star newspaper holding here empty purse except for seven cents - just enough for streetcar fare home. The suspects, Carl Nelson of Minneapolis and Clifford Ballard of Montrose were apprehended. (2)

The Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) heralds the end of spring and beginning of summer and can bloom any time from May 31st to late June depending on the season’s weather. Right after the Summer Solstice, Martha planted six new clumps. She did not specify the source.

In July Martha secured various other types of plants from Taylor's Falls, the Gunflint Trail, Anoka, Askov Nursery, Stillwater, Marine-on-St. Croix. Included here were two blueberry bushes she planted on July 18th.

Here is a list of plantings for species no longer extant in the Garden that Martha planted for the first time in 1935. Most were previously introduced by Eloise except where noted. (all are native to Minnesota except where noted otherwise). Only one is extant.

Canadian Mayflower
Canadian Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). Photo G D Bebeau.
Mountain Wood Sorrel
Mountain Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana); Photo ©Corey Raimond, Wisconsin Flora
Broad-lipped Twayblade
Broad-lipped Twayblade (Listera convallarioides) Photo © R. K. Kupfer, Wisconsin Flora.

By mid-August Martha noticed birds migrating south already. She saw Grinell’s Water Thrush, Wilson’s Warbler, Black and White Warbler, all on the 17th; Canada Warblers on the 26th and on September 1st - Chestnut-sided Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos and more Grinell’s Water Thrush (spelled “Grinell’s” in old books, some newer books use “Grinnell’s”). Weather during summer was warmer than average with good rains.

Meanwhile, Gertrude Cram was up at Isle Royal collecting plants. Mrs. Cram wrote to Martha in a letter posted August 25th, 1935 from Rock Harbor, Isle Royal:

“There will be a box for you in this mail containing the Pinguicula and the Fragrant Fern. I have found the latter in only one place and not much of it so I had to be careful about robbing the treasury. It is not listed as rare so maybe in time I’ll find more of it, although I have been looking for other places for two years.” See note 3 for more of her letter.

Martha identified the species of Pinguicula as P. vulgaris, the Common Butterwort. [Photo below]. Fragrant fern is Dryopteris fragrans. Seven other plant varieties were in the box, none of which survive in the Garden today. These included the following species that Martha planted for the first time in 1935, although Eloise Butler had previously introduced all of them.(all are native to Minnesota except where noted otherwise):

An earlier box had also arrived from Mrs. Cram. On August 15th Martha noted planting from Isle Royal a number of plants including 10 of the unusual plant - Broad-lipped twayblade (Listera convallarioides). Twayblades are low growing orchids of moist woods and bogs with small flowers growing on a raceme above to egg-shaped leaves the appear midway up the stem. In Minnesota the only reported native population is in Cook county in the far Arrowhead. The plant has not survived in the Garden and in the wild in Minnesota it is listed on the “Special Concern” list of native plants. None of the above plants from Isle Royal are extant in the Garden.

Thus ended the summer adventures in the Garden.

Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) Photo © Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.
Vipers Bugloss
Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare). Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora.
Dragons Mouth Orchid
Dragon's Mouth, (Arethusa bulbosa). Photo © R.K. Kupfer, Wisconsin Flora.
Dwarf Primrose
Dwarf Primrose, (Primula mistassinica); Photo ©Asa Thoresen, Wisconsin Flora.
Fairy Slipper Orchid, (Calypso bulbosa); Photo from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone in the Garden Jun 1, 1954.
Small Green Wood Orchis
Small Green Wood Orchis, (Platanthera clavellata); Photo ©Robert W. Freckmann, Wisconsin Flora.

Autumn 1935

False Boneset
False Boneset (Brickellia eupatorioides) Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

As the birds migrated, Martha made planting notes in her log of species that she planted for the first time in 1935 although all were previously in the Garden. (all are native to Minnesota except where noted otherwise):

Large Twayblade
Large Twayblade, (Liparis lilifolia) (Photo © Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

The Large Twayblade, (Liparis lilifolia), planted on September 19th was a gift to the Garden. Unlike the Twayblades planted this past summer, this is a different genus. The main difference is that the leaves are basal instead of mid-stem. It also is native to Minnesota, but not endangered, and is found in the counties bordering the Mississippi river from Hennepin south to the Iowa border.

The big event of the fall was the discovery on September 1st of a large Hen of the Woods mushroom (Polyphorus frondosus) on a white oak. These are edible mushrooms. (Spelling of the genus is found in older references as Martha spelled it and the newer is “Polyporus”). Martha took the specimen to the Mushroom Society meeting on the 23rd where it weighed in at 25 lbs - which is a good size, although they can reach 100 lbs. Martha Crone and her husband William were active members of the Minnesota Mycological Society, Martha being Secretary and Dr. Crone being Vice President. They reported in the Society's journal that the large quantity of morels to be found this past year was without precedent.

The Garden closed for the season on September 30th with 20 species of Asters in full bloom. Martha summed up the year by stating that “1,019 plants were set out in the reserve, comprising 87 species, representing 68 genera and 34 families. This includes 18 species of ferns.” (4) (Ed. note: The Garden was referred to as the "Native Plant Reserve" early in Eloise Butler's time and that continued into the 1980s even though its’ official name was “Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden” since 1929.)

Fall weather for the Garden was pleasant. Temperatures, while usually within seasonal averages or slightly above, were matched with adequate rainfall. November was dry but there were snowfalls in December.

At the end of 1935 Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth retired. His assistant, C. (Christian) A. Bossen becomes Superintendent.

Rattlesnake Fern
Virginia Grape Fern (Rattlesnake Fern), (Botrychium virginianum). Photo ©Janice Stiefel, Wisconsin Flora.
Silvery Scurfpea
Silver-leaf (Silver Scurf-Pea), (Pediomelum argophyllum)
Yellow Clintonia
Yellow Clintonia (Bluebead); (Clintonia borealis), Aaron Carlson, Wisconsin Flora


Note 1: Martha was appointed "temporary" Curator in April 1933 to work until Oct. 1st, 1933 for $60 per month. (Letter of Superintendent Theodore Wirth to the Board of Park Commissioners dated April 18, 1933). This was confirmed in 1936 and 1938 by the Minneapolis Civil Service Commission that her position was "temporary Curator" at the same rate of pay. It was not until April 4, 1940 that the position was confirmed permanent.

Note 2: The photo of Martha appeared in the Minneapolis Star on June 14, 1935. Information on the suspects was reported on July 2 and July 13 in the same newspaper

Note 3: More text from Gertrude Cram's letter of August 25 from Rock Harbor Lodge, Isle Royal, Michigan. The Mrs. Farmer mentioned was the hostess of the Lodge:

“I hope you receive the Devil’s Club in sufficiently good condition to enable you to recognize it. The package was a flimsy one - there is never a box to be had here without reserving it weeks in advance - and I was not sure it would get through the mail. I put in two young plants in case you want to start a colony in your own yard or in the wild garden! It really is a handsome plant even if it is vicious. The oxalis gave me a big thrill for I have been hunting it for three or four years. Miss butler wanted some. We hunted through a mile of unbroken forest searching for it where Cooper lists it, but never set eyes on a single plant. You can imagine how I felt when I stumbled onto it a week ago while I was looking for a stand of Devil’s Club which is on the same island. The latter I did not find but felt more than repaid for the search when I saw the other. We took a trip to Passage Island which is four miles out into the lake to get the Devil’s Club. The second largest lighthouse on the Great Lakes is there and every now and then Mrs. Farmer goes out with her guests to see it, so I seized the opportunity.

Note 4: Annual Report of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners dated Nov. 4, 1935, submitted by Martha Crone.

Historical photo at top of page -The old "office" of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden from a Kodachrome by Martha Crone taken from a path in the Woodland Garden on May 15, 1952.

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Year chart - all years

Garden History Archive

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


(1) Garden Log - Native Plant Reserve, Glenwood Park, Minneapolis, MN by Eloise Butler

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

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

Kodachromes of Martha Crone are from her collection that was given to the Friends by her daughter Janet following Martha's death in 1989.

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

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©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. "" - 022822