Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

A web of present and past events

These short articles are written to highlight connections of the plants, history and lore of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden with different time frames or outside connections. A web of intersections.

Now in or coming to a freshwater pond or lake near you! - September 2022

Another cattail is in the water. It was not so long ago that our marshes and wetlands were invaded by the Narrow-leaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia, which is not native to the lower United States, but to Canada. Down here in a more inviting environment it became invasive. It is found in all but 19 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. In some marshes, it predominates. Like many plants that run amok, it was frequently planted years ago when the long-term effects were not realized. Even in the Wildflower Garden, Eloise Butler introduced the species in 1913 and planted more in several years thereafter. Garden Curator Susan Wilkins and staff have removed them as occur but in many local Twin City marshes, they can be seen predominating over our native Common Cattail, Typha latifolia.

Now we have a new kid in the marshes in Minnesota - a cross between the previous two - Typha x glauca Godr. (T. angustifolia x latifolia), and it is overpowering even its invasive parent, the Narrow-leaf.

DNR helicopter spraying cattail
Above: MN DNR helicopter spraying hybrid cattail. Photo - MN DNR

It dominates to such an extent that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) states that habitat for waterfowl is being destroyed with a lot of wetlands becoming biological deserts. To counter the invasion the Minnesota DNR since 2017 has been using targeted aerial spraying to eliminate some of the infestations that are so thick that only herbicide can control them. Spraying makes use of a very low flying helicopter (10 to 20 feet up) on calm days, using gps coordinates to get the exact spots. Sites are selected from a submitted list and narrowed down to those where is little danger to adjacent areas. As of 2021, about 9,400 acres had been treated. Funds were provided by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Treated areas see the return of open water, wild rice and waterfowl.

Over recent years some newspapers in the upper midwest have reported on this program and how effective it was. [Ex: Dennis Anderson in the Star-Trib, September 20, 2020.]

The hybrid is identified by tiny bracteoles on the pistillate flowers just like T. angustifolia but unlike it mucilage glands are absent from the leaf blade. You will need a hand lens to see these. More visible to the unaided eye are the pistillate spikes that are are medium to dark brown , almost as thick as the Common Cattail, but like the Narrow-leaf, the flowering spike has a gap between the upper staminate flowers and the lower pistillate flowers.

Below: Comparison from left to right:(1) Typha latifolia (flowering) pistillate flowers still green; (2) T. latifolia - note thickness and no gap between staminate and pistillate flowers; (3) T. angustifolia - note thin flower sections and gap, (4) Typha x glauca - note thickness and gap. Photo Rob Routledge, Sault College,

hybrid cattail comparison

Eloise Butler's last Garden project - September 2022

Eloise Butler on mallard pool bridge
Eloise Butler on the rustic bridge at the Mallard Pool, 1932. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Ninety years ago Eloise Butler fulfilled a decades old wish to have a large sunny aquatic pool in her wild flower garden - a garden which had already been renamed to honor her - the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden. This would be her final project.

She wrote in 1932:
Ever since the Native Plant Preserve 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.

She then added a little water wheel at the inlet (the south end) and a rustic bridge at the outlet (north end). The bridge was build by Lloyd Teeuwen who was her helper in the Garden and was present at the time of her death in the Babcock house the following spring.

Martha Hellander’s map of the early garden, shows the placement of the Mallard Pool in relation to other features. [This map was created from historical references for her biography of Butler - The Wild Gardener.] That area is now in the open meadow north of the Gardens back gate. Martha Crone tended the pool area until the early 1940’s and then this area was abandoned as part of the Wild Flower Garden in 1944.

early Garden map

Eloise Butler wrote an extensive article about her pool for the circulating bulletin of the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter of the Agassiz Association, of which she was a member. Her text and our research about the Mallard Pool and the north meadow are found in this document.

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The Garden in late September

zigzag goldenrod
Zigzag Goldenrod

Asters and Goldenrods are in plentify array in autumn. Check out our photo sheet of most of the species in the Garden.

We want to highlight two goldenrods for special attention.

First is Solidago flexicaulis, the Zigzag Goldenrod, so named for the zigzags of the upper stem. This species will bloom in both dappled shade and in areas with a good amount of sun. It can be a short plant - sometimes only 8 inches high and usually tops out at 4 feet high max. There is a large display of these near the path along the outside of the Garden's west fence. This is the first area outside the Garden that the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIGAG) worked over to clear garlic mustard and buckthorn in 2008. Now you will find many natives are growing in the area. If you plant it at home be careful, the plant self-seeds extremely well.

At the opposite end of the hight scale is Solidago speciosa, the Showy Goldenrod. It is indeed “showy” with its tall unbranched stem and a floral array that can easily exceed a foot in hight. It is a bee magnet and while the root system will form good clumps of plants, it is not an aggressive spreader.

Enjoy them both before while you can.

Showy Goldenrod
Showy Goldenrod on display in the upland at Eloise Butler.






Many goldenrod species were used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes. Frances Densmore reported that the Minnesota Chippewa used various species of Goldenrod for treating fevers, colds, ulcers and boils. Specifically in regards to S. speciosa, a decoction from pulverized roots was drank to treat lung trouble. A similar decoction was taken for hemorrhage when bleeding from the mouth occurred; another root decoction helped women with difficult childbirth labor. Boiled stalk or root was used as a warm compress on sprains when swelling occurred. These same decoctions of root would be used as general tonics. Dried stalk or root, combined with bear grease formed an ointment.

When October comes don't forget to take walk in the Garden, or Wirth Park or any woods and reflect on the words of Dora Read Goodale:

What does a day in mid-October mean?

Free life, strong feeling, new and quick delight,
All things that are most warm, most rich and bright,

All things that are most sudden, stirring, keen!
The glowing hills, the mountain gaps between,

The sharp, fringed outlines of the wooded height,
The blue, blue sky, the clouds of rifted white, –

The something that is felt and heard and seen!
The genial sun, the strong and breezy air,

The depth of color ere the year shall die,
The sense of life that comes before decay;

The trees that glow ere Winter strips them bare,

The birds that sing before they southward fly,

–All these are in a mid-October Day!

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Friends Annual Meeting

Dr. Lee Frelich

At our annual meeting on Sunday September 18, Dr. Lee Frelich, Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology gave a great presentation on "Could climate change turn Minnesota into the new Kansas?” A key part of his presentation was how the changing climate will cause species migration northward. Thanks to those who came or Zoomed in and heard. Garden Curator Susan Wilkins updated everyone on activities at the Garden and the membership elected a new board of directors.

New Director List

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Previous articles

August 2022 - A vaccine for Poison Ivy -

August 2022 - Fountains in the Garden -

August 2022 - The Garden in late August

August 2022 - The Joe-Pye Weeds

July 2022 - Rusty Patched Bumblebee - Background and identification.

July 2022 - The record heat wave of July 1936.

July 2022 - The two queens of Summer in the Wildflower Garden

July 2022 - July Garden highlights.

July 2022 - The Leatherwood and Eloise Butler’s Memorial Tablet - one gone, the other sinking?

June 2022 - White Strawberries - learn why some strawberries never turn red but taste the same as red ones.

June 2022 - Founding of the Friends - 70 years ago.

June 2022 - The Garden in late June

June 2022 - White flowers for summer. Eloise Butler reviews them.

All selections published in 2022

Selections published in 2021

Selections published in 2020

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