Eloise Butler images

Mallard Pool

by Eloise Butler, from Annals of the Wild Life Reserve, October 1932

[Notes: The Butler text here is from a hand-typed manuscript with the heading:
“Eloise Butler - D Bulletin, October”
Address until Oct. 15: 416-8th Ave. So. Minneapolis, Minn”
[That address is the business address of J.W. Babcock - Babcock Photo Engraving. During the Garden season Eloise boarded at the Babcock house at 227 Xerxes Ave. No, Minneapolis, but had her mail sent to the business address.]

The explanation of "D Bulletin" is that the article was sent to The Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter, (Division D ) of the Agassiz Association for publication in the Asa Gray Bulletin. The Agassiz Association was founded in the late 1800‘s to be an association of local chapters that would combine the like interests of individuals and organizations in the study of Nature. Eloise was a founding member of Division D and a member until her death.

The text given here is ‘as typed’. Since Eloise Butler’s day, some of the scientific name classifications have changed but the old names are still searchable. Where there is a significant spelling difference that would prevent identification I have added within brackets [ ] either a correction, missing letter, etc. In several places in the original there are pencil notations that are indecipherable. Those plants that are still extant in the Garden, or until recently extant, have a link to a plant identification sheet, with photos. PDF copy of original typed paper.

Following the Butler text is a plan map of the Wild Botanic Garden in 1912 with features named by Eloise Butler annotated. There is also a set of editor's notes about the pool and its location. Linked to that is a detailed reference article that provides backup for comments made here. Some additional texts of Eloise Butler that were found in separate articles but associated with the Mallard Pool text is then appended to the bottom of the page.

Eloise Butler at 80
Eloise Butler around age 80 near the time she wrote this article.

Eloise Butler's text

Ever since the Native Plant Preserve [Eloise's word] was started I have wished to have a pool constructed where two small streams converge in an open meadow, the only pool in the Preserve being too shady for aquatics. The hard times gave this joy to me, for a jobless expert did the work for a sum that could be afforded by the Park Commissioners. The pool is about 35 feet long, several feet narrower, and of irregular outline. Indeed, the contour is beautiful. The excavation was made in a dense growth of cat-tails. While digging, the workman saw a mallard duck wending its way through the meadow with a train of four little ones. Hence the name of the pool, as this duck had never been listed before in the Garden.

The voracious muskrat was also observed, and I began to fear that the roots of my water lilies would be gobbled up. It was thought that stout wire netting at the top and bottom of the pool would prevent the muskrats from entering, but my adviser knew little of their predatory habits. Some white water lilies were planted in the pool. In two days only a fragment of the leaves could be found. Then it was decided to encircle the pool with the netting sinking it two feet in the ground. Before this work was completed, a muskrat preempted the pool with two little ones. We thought we could trap them inside and throw them over the fence but before the circuit was complete, they left on their own accord, probably in search of more food, and the gap was closed against them. It is possible that they will burrow under the fence. Traps must be set next spring.

Eloise at Mallard Pool
Eloise Butler overlooking the Mallard Pool after its construction. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

A rustic fence of unpeeled tamarack poles has been built across the narrow lower end of the pool. Here one at advantage the pool and the border [sic - as written]. Opposite at the upper end, is “The Gurgler”, the water entering gently by a short series of low rapids. Here my ingenious bridge-builder will insert a water-wheel made of galvanized tin and about five inches in diameter, designed to throw a mist-like spray over plants like Pinguicula that flourish on dripping rock. We call the place Atlantic City because, at each end of the bridge, a plank walk was laid over the cat-tail slough.

Many desirable plants were already established near or on the border of the pool: Sagittaria latifolia, Eupatorium maculatum, E. perforatum, Verbena hastata, Epilobium coloratum, Lythrum salicaria, Mentha canadensis, Rumex brittanica [britannica], Solidago canadensis, S. uliginosa, Aster puniceus, A. juncea [junceus], A. umbellatus, A. paniculatus, Asclepias incarnata, Helianthus tuberosus, H. grosseserratus, Rudbeckia laciniata, Chelone glabra, Gallium asprellum, Caltha palustris, Impatiens biflora, Aspidium thelypteris, [pencil addition] Onoclea sensibilis, and an overplus like water cress and cat-tail, and others that must be grubbed out with ruthless hand like Cuscuta gronovii and Bidens cernua. In the near vicinity are the grandest species of our flora - - Cypripedium hirsutum, C. parviflorum, C. pubescens, C. candidum, and far enough distant not to shade the pool Cornus stolonifera, C. paniculata, Viburum lentago, V. opulus, and a few tamaracks.

The soil is a rich peaty loam. Here and there on the border this was mixed with a due proportion of sand to accommodate the plants that will not grow except in wet sand. Large sods of sand-lovers have been contributed by friends of the garden -- packed full of Polygala sanguinea, P. cruciata, Viola lanceolata, V. sagittata, V. arenaria [pencil notation], Eriocaulon articulatum, Gratiola aurea, Steironema quadrifolium, Kyris [Xyris] flexuosa, Hypericum canadense. In lesser amount have also been planted Pogonia ophioglossoides, Calopogon pulchellus, Lilium superbum, L. umbellatum, Geradia tenuifolia, Spiranthes gracilis, S. romanzoffiana, Drosera rotundifolia, Spiraea tomentosa, Mimulus ringens, M. jamesii, Gerardia tenuifolia, Sagittaria heterophylla, Cyperus strigosus, Calla palustris, Parnassia caroliniana, C. palustris [repeated listing], Veronica americana, Primula farinosa, P. mistassinica, Saxifraga aizoon, Pinguicula vulgaris, Gentiana andrewsii, Aster novae-angliae, A. modestus, Lysimachia terrestris, Viola incognita, Boltonia asteroides, Veronia fasciculata, Helenium autumnale, Hydrocotyle americana, Comandra livida [lividum], Solidago ridellii, Astragalus canadensis, Helianthus hirsutus, Habenaria ciliaris, H. blephariglottis (the last two a contribution from Mr. Lownes), several clumps of Lobelia siphilitica and L. cardinalis, sowed seeds of Cassia chamaecrista, Crotalaria sagittalis and Strophostyles helvola, also Collinsia verna. This may seem too large a number of plants for a border, but the border is of indefinite width. It comprises nearly an acre and extends across the sunlit area of the marsh. I shall probably think of more desirable plants!

Eloise on bridge
Detail of Eloise and the rustic bridge of tamarack polls. Note the wire netting used to keep muskrats out.

The small pool is another proposition. Its size will not admit more than one or two specimens of all the species that I wish. I have already planted therein Castalia tuberosa [pencil change - see note below], Nelumbo lutea, Pontedera cordata. I shall also introduce when I can get them -- next spring if not this fall -- Nymphaea advena, N. microphylla, Prasenia schreberi, Lymphoides lacunosum [??? not identified], Ranunculus aquatilis var. caillaceus, R. delphinifolius, Lobelia dortmanna, Hippuris vulgaris, Sparganium simplex. I should have written above Castalia odorata, instead of tuberosa, the latter is not a free bloomer and spreads too rapidly. any member of the chapter will confer a great favor by telling me where I can get the Nymphoides which is not listed by florists. I find that I have omitted from the margin, Osmunda regalis, Liatris pycnostachya, Physostegia virginiana, Decodon verticillatus, Zygadenum chloranthus, [next garbled - assume - Tofleldia pursilla], Tanacetum huronense, Lobelia Kalmii, Hypericum ascyron, Prenanthes racemosa, Gentiana andrewsii, Hibiscus militaris, Stachys palustris, Habenaria psycodes, H. fimbriata, Myosotis scorpoides, Lysimachia quadrifolia, Lythrum alatum, Chelone obliqua, Saururus cernuus, Alisma plantago, Lilium canadense, Melanthium virginicum, Spriraea salicifolia, Iris versicolor, Pedicularis lanceolata.

I intend the fence barring out the muskrats to be concealed by the tall herbaceous perennials.

[this is the end of the typed text. In the research for her book The Wild Gardener, Martha Hellander found the following addition to this document, written during the Winter (dated December 1932) when Eloise was with relatives on the east coast.]

The little water wheel (to be removed during the winter lest the paddles be bent by ice) has been inserted in “The Gurgler,” but the name has been changed to “The Jolly Spindrift.” It chugs around so merrily, the spray splashing in the sunlight, that everyone smiles audibly when he sees it. I gave it the name a first sight, to find afterward that it is a new coinage, the compound not being in the dictionary. Below the rustic bridge another excavation has been made, continuous with the first, but more like a little pond, while the first is like a winding river emptying into it, increasing the length of the water area to fifty feet. I needed the “pond” for the display of the aquatic buttercup -- white and yellow -- which I hope the muskrats will find too bitter to eat. Otherwise, the pond must be fenced. Some yews, “ground hemlock”, have just been contributed to the border, whose bright green foliage will greatly add to the toute ensemble. Gratiola continued to blossom for some time after planting and marsh marigold began to bloom for the second time on the border. Even now, at the beginning of work, the place with its setting is truly enchanting and I have to tear myself away from it. I shall dream of it all winter and conjure up the futurity of the plantings.

End of Butler text

Note: The plant names linked in this article have an information sheet, with photos and descriptions, posted on this website. The website's complete list of plants is found here:
Common Name List - Scientific Name List.
More of Eloise Butler's Writings


Below: The plan of the Wild Botanic Garden ca. 1912. Features noted are names given by Eloise Butler. The location of Mallard Pool, added in 1932, is noted. This spot is within what Eloise Butler called the "north enclosure" - the name she gave to one of two areas that were fenced in during 1924 [see that article]. Eloise noted in her log on July 7, 1932 "Mallard Pool completed in north enclosure." The bridge she writes about was completed July 29 [Log] and would be at the northern end of Mallard Pool. The bridge was made by Lloyd Teeuwen who was her helper in the Garden and was with her at the Babcock house just before she went to the Garden on April 10, 1933 and suffered a heart attach. Lloyd returned to the Babcock house as the doctor was administrating to Eloise and was present when she died. (see this section of Eloise Butler's bio.)

Today, the location of the pool, Bubbling Spring, the North Meadow and the Lily Pond lay outside the North Garden boundary, just north of the back fence. Beyond the Lily Pond to the North is the Wirth Park picnic area and across Glenwood Avenue is the present Wirth Beach area. The dotted line of the path that intersects Lady's-slipper Path, running from near Bubbling Spring westward toward Gentian Meadow, is the approximate location of the existing path just outside the back fence of the Garden and the location of what Eloise called "the tarvia road". The dam, dating back to at least the Summer of 1909, crossing the stream from the Garden, that created the small pool in the Garden was next to this path. A difference today is that prior to 1992 the path and back fence were more to the south and next to the dam. The fence and path were moved northward in a 1991/92 renovation of that part of the Garden. This path (the tarvia road as Eloise called it), bisected the Garden in Eloise Butler's time into the southern portion (today's garden) and the northern portion where the Mallard Pool was located. (reference in this article) Map ©Martha Hellander & Northstar Press.

1912 garden plan

When was this area abandoned?

During the summer of 1938 the southern part of the Garden was surrounded by a new fence which was greatly appreciated by Curator Martha Crone and well received by the public. The old fence dated back to 1924 and Martha had made a plea for a new fence in her 1937 report to the Park Board, and this is certainly an instance of bureaucracy responding rapidly. The fence, at least 1,900 feet of it, was constructed by workers of the WPA (Works Progress Administration). It was six feet high and of wire mesh, with 3 gates for entrance. Parts of the existing wire mesh fence are presumably of the one erected in 1938. The two main gates that were put in have been replaced with sturdier and more impressive designs in 1990 and 1995 and fencing near the gates has been replaced with wrought iron - projects funded by The Friends.

Martha noted in her diary on January 18, 1939 that Park Board maintenance workers were in working on new fencing in the "lower enclosure", which must have been an area excluded in the 1938 project. The "lower enclosure" would seem to be the same area Eloise Butler called the "north enclosure", as that is an area of lower elevation. (see 1924 fence article) This all ties in with what happened in 1944.

When the Upland Garden area was added in 1944, Martha Crone said in her 1945 report to the Park Board that the addition added about 10 acres. This is too high a number. The total acreage before the most recent addition in 1993 was 14 acres. We know that over the years from 1907 to 1993 certain areas expanded from the original 3 acres, including adding in the north meadow and the area of the Bubbling Spring. Eloise wrote in 1926 that the entire area was 25 acres at that time including the North Meadow and the Bubbling Spring. We are also fairly certain that the northern meadow area was abandoned by the early 1940s and by 1944 for certain leaving a much smaller area.

Martha had made no notes in her log about doing anything in the Mallard Pool area after 1939 except for notes in 1946 and 1947 about removing some plants from that area and transferring them to the current Garden space.

One can see from the 1938 wintertime aerial photo below that the area where the Mallard Pool was located, and the entire area of the old lily pond has filled in with cattail and other vegetation. The water channel is still visible and in the lower right section would be the old Mallard Pool, now mostly overgrown. That area was already overgrown with cattail at the time of the Mallard Pool construction as indicated by the photo of the area immediately following the pool's construction. The straight diagonal line in the photo below where the Mallard Pool was may be the bridge and the plank walkway that Eloise mentions in her text above. The second photo is contemporary showing the changes to that area since them. The old Lily Pond area is now somewhat clear of cattails with open water in the Summer. This was modified in 1957 when the The Park Board put in a large diameter underground pipeline to divert water from Bassett's Creek to Brownie Lake. That line lies beneath the gravel path that now bisects the area. The remaining more southerly portion is filled with cattails, just like it was in 1932.

1938 photo
The wetland area opposite Wirth Beach parking lot in 1938. What may once have been open water is now filled with cattail and other vegetation. The diagonal line at the lower right corner of the cattails may well be the plank walkway that Eloise Butler wrote about. Click image for a larger version. Photo courtesy University of Minnesota.
2010 photo
The same wetland area in a contemporary photo. Open water (although covered with algae) is now bisected by the gravel path covering the large water diversion pipeline from Bassett's Creek to Brownie Lake. Photo courtesy Google.

At the time the Upland Garden was established in 1944, requiring much development work by Martha and the one person she had for help at that time, the Park Board agreed with Clinton Odell that the northern meadow should never have been fenced, it was swampy, and it should be abandoned.

In a strange turn of events all the area that had earlier been abandoned, including the Mallard Pool area, were added back to the control of the Garden staff in 1964. The Park Board had approved the expansion of the area under the Gardener’s control. Outside of the fenced area of the Garden proper, this new area was the surrounding wild area west to the Parkway, north to Glenwood Ave. and east to the picnic grounds. Ken Avery was in favor of this change. In fact he considered it an important milestone -

"... one rivaling, if not exceeding, in importance that of the addition of the Prairie Garden in 1944."
He added - "This quadrupled the area we have to work with and makes it possible to treat the entire area as one integrated unit. We of the Wild Flower Garden are eager to assume this task.....we have always felt that the chief value of this area was for the study and appreciation of nature. Now that the Board has passed the motion dedicating it to this end, we are planning to adjust all maintenance activities toward this goal. It will not require any great change but just that all activities be paced to show greater respect for the ecological relationship of the area and to exploit all of its possibilities as a natural area." (Annual Report of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners for 1964)

This now includes (or re-includes) that “north enclosure” area where the Mallard Pool was located. It did not last long however, as the Park Board budget did not allow Ken to have sufficient staff to care for such a large area and by 1967 it was back to 14 acres and the Mallard Pool area was once again left to grow wild as Eloise Butler had found it.

Detail Study and references for the above text: In research for her book on the life of Eloise Butler, Martha Hellander did extensive research on these topics. This study paper in pdf format references some of her work, and provides more detail and photos on the Mallard Pool and other pools in the Garden.

Below: A current view of the water channel leaving the Garden after it has combined with the second stream that Eloise mentions at the beginning of her text. The view is looking to the North toward Wirth Lake. The Mallard Pool would have had its southern end near this spot. Photo G D Bebeau.

mallard pool area

Below: A current view of place where "two streams combine." The stream on the right comes from the Garden; it joins one coming in from the top, which is a water flow from the east end of this area, which included runoff from the old Bubbling Spring. Joined together in the left center of the photo, the water flows to the left and into the area of the photo above. Photo G D Bebeau.

north meadow in 2018

Below: An overall annotated view of the Garden area in Wirth Park in 1938. Click on image for a larger version. I've placed a white arrow near the upper right that shows the location of the J. W. Babcock house, where Eloise Butler roomed, at 227 Xerxes Ave. Note that the east side of the avenue is undeveloped in 1938. Subsequently, the west side where the Babcock house was located, is now clear of structures and parkland. Photo courtesy University of Minnesota.

1938 map
Eloise Butler and Clara Leavitt
Above: Eloise Butler with Clara Leavitt (right) in from the of the Garden office. Photo courtesy Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis Collection.

Additional notes of Eloise Butler appended here for lack of any particular document she referenced.

At Miss Leavitt’s request, I will add an account of one of the many vagaries in wild gardening: Are you all familiar with Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum, belonging to the same genus as the famous Compass Plant, S. laciniatum? It is a native of Minnesota, but is not found near Minneapolis. A single specimen was given me nine years ago and I planted it near my office. Every season it sent up its large green banners, but nary a flower. I hesitated to change the plant to another situation because of its large root and lest I might lose it altogether. So this last spring I gave it a good talking to and bought half a dozen more Prairie Dock and planted them elsewhere. To my astonishment the obstinate specimen sent up at once the tall stalk that burgeoned out into a number of sizable yellow flowers! I have had somewhat similar experiences. Does it mean that plants are sentient beings?

The Boston Herald of July 31 prints an illustrated account of two freak dandelions growing in a yard in Weston, Massachusetts. One is nine foot in height and the other six feet. Both are in the budding stage, so they will attain still greater heights. The nine foot dandelion had a stalk one inch in diameter. Both had leaves eight to ten inches in length.

In clearing out my desk I found a questionnaire that I had once given my pupils in Botany. I will copy two of the replies made to the following questions:

Why did you take the course in Botany? What benefit, if any, have you derived from the study? What part of the subject do you like best?

“I am not a bit sorry I have taken Botany and if I hadn’t. I would have been the lesser. Now I observe beautiful nature and feel as if I had accomplished a great deal, although I don’t intend to end here. Although I may not study my book as much after this as now, still I will study nature and derive all the knowledge I can from it. Everyone should be made to study Botany.” Alpha Sjoblon

“I took the course in Botany, first because I was interested in plants and know my ignorance of nature. I really think people ought to know nature, for, as Shakespeare says, ‘The closer we are acquainted with nature, the closer mankind becomes to one another.”

“I have gained the habit of keeping my eyes open, to notice the different plants and changes in nature. In keeping my eyes open for nature, I have become unconsciously more sharp or bright in my other lessons. I really have found this to be true. I like the part of Botany where we study how closely plants and animals are related in their work for each other.” Florence McDonnel.