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.

Rusty Patched Bumblebee - July 2022

By the year 2000 the Rusty Patched Bee (Bombus affinis) disappeared across its entire range, then a decade later began to reappear around urban centers. Today there are 90% fewer bees than in the last century coinciding with a 95% reduction in habitat. For reasons yet unknown, more of these bees have been recently counted in Minnesota than anywhere else. One was sighted in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in August 2020. The Rusty Patched entered Federal endangered status in 2017, it was selected as the Minnesota state bee in 2019.

Rusty Patched Bumblebee

Above: The Rusty Patched Bumblebee. Photo Heather Holm, University of Minnesota.

They nest in the ground and in cavities. The males and workers have two distinguishing identifying marks:
1. There is a T-shaped area of black hairs on the thorax and
2. There is a rusty colored patch in the middle of the 2nd abdominal segment.
The Queens have different identifying marks and they usually lack the rusty patch.

The University of Minnesota Extension Division, particularly via etymologist Elaine Evans, has led research into the life of this bee. You can view that work at Also on that site is a video describing how to identify the queens.

If you have an interest in helping research you can take part in the inaturalist 4th annual Backyard Bumble Bee Count that runs July 24 to August 2. You can access that from the same University page.

Below: Thanks to the University of Minnesota Extension for the use of their Identifying Chart.

bee indentification chart

Back to the top.

The record heat wave of July 1936

For a year that started out with extreme cold, 36 consecutive days of sub-zero minimums including one day of -34 F in January, there was no indication of the historic high temperatures to be reached six months later. Early March had 16 inches of snow depth on the ground; the last snow storm on April 6th brought 2-½ inches of new snow and the last snow in the Garden did not melt until April 16th. It was a lingering spring like 2022. The Showy lady’s-slippers dd not bloom until the summer solstice, the second latest date ever. But on June 14 the rains stopped, temperatures rose.

Matha Crone - 1943
Martha Crone in the Wildflower Garden - shown here in 1943.

July 1936 would become the hottest July in local recorded weather history with the highest temperature in Twin Cities recorded weather history of 107.8 degrees on July 14th. Altogether there were 14 days of temperatures at 100 degrees and above during July. Garden Curator Martha Crone planted a few species but she noted on July 28th that everything was dried up and yet it would be another 18 days before it would rain. Finally on August 15 she wrote “½ inch of rain after a lapse of 60 days.” By August 16th she noted the first migrating warblers coming through the Garden.

She wrote in her annual report to Parks Superintendent C. A. Bossen “In spite of the heat and drought no trees were lost, due largely to the heavy accumulation of leaves covering the ground; thereby increasing absorption of rainfall and holding vast amounts of water and slowing up the run-off, also preventing erosion of the soil.”

Despite the drought, it was not the driest year on record - that record still belongs to 1910.

Back to the top.

The two queens of Summer in the Wildflower Garden

In the wetland at Eloise Butler reside the two queens that bloom around the same time. From a distance the inflorescence looks like a filmy cloud of bloom - white in the case of Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria) and pink for the Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra). The former is at home in the wetland making numerous appearances along the boardwalk whereas the latter is reclusive there but is also more adaptable to an upland meadow habitat if you care to plant it in a home garden. Both were in bloom this past week.

Queen of the Meadow

Neither are native to our area but have been in the Garden as early as 1933/34 for ulmaria and much later for rubra. Both need a lot of sun to flower nicely, but ulmaria needs more soil moisture, hence its proliferation in the wetland. It seeds nicely but behaves, whereas rubra has an aggressive root system so beware where you plant as it will spread. Ulmaria has fragrance whereas rubra has none, but both draw pollinators to the pollen.

Besides the stately height of ulmaria and the lovely bloom, it has a number of medicinal claims to fame. It is a plant that provided Salicylic acid, a key chemical for making acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) which was first obtained from the flowers in 1839 in Germany. Willow bark of course, had long been known to contain the chemical. These salicylates are the basis for the plants long-standing reputation as a remedy for flu, rheumatism, arthritis, as a diuretic, and for fevers, not to mention the fragrant almond aroma of the flowers for which Queen Elizabeth I is said to have used them to strew the floors of her chambers.

Various names have been given to these plants over the years and they used to be in the genus Spiraea but molecular research shows they belong in Filipendula. Another plant called Meadow Sweet, Spiraea alba, is sometimes confused with ulmaria, but that plant lacks the medicinal and folk history.

Queen of the Meadow Queen of the Prairie

More detail on the plants, more photos, and a lot of historical medicinal uses and source information are found in our informations sheets.

Queen of the Meadow.

Queen of the Prairie,

Back to the top.

July Garden Hi-lights.

The list of species in bloom at this point of the year is a long one so let us mention here just a few on view now. The two Queens are hi-lighted in another article this month. You could concentrate on viewing plants with established medicinal values - from folk times to modern days, many once had listings in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and in the NF (National Drug Formulary) - among the most important you will see in bloom are Culver's Root (prolific this year), Purple Coneflower, both St. Johnsworts, Prairie Dogbane, Spreading Dogbane, both Joe-pye Weeds, Bugbane and Wild Bergamot. Details about each plant are on our plant information sheets - look up the name here.

Bottle brush grass
Eastern Bottlebrush Grass.

For the children, you can introduce them to a grass whose name they may never forget - Bottlebrush Grass. See it near the Baker bench in the east woodland and in many places in the upland. Coming up - if you are unfamiliar with Jewellweed, a visit will inform you, as there is an explosion of it this year in the wetland and surrounding trails. It will be blooming in the very near future.

Enchanter's Nightshade
Enchanter's Nightshade

For a lesser known often overlooked plant, you will see many examples in the woodland and shady areas of the upland, of the Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), with its diminuative two-petaled flowers on a spike rising above the leaves. Many dog-owners dislike it around the home as the flowers produce burs, but you should get to know it as it is an ancient plant, found in the old world and the new. The genus Circaea, is named after Circe, the enchantress of the old classics. The species lutetiana, is derived from the old Latin name for the city of Paris, which ment "witch city." Sounds enchanting, doesn't it, but John Gerard wrote (Herbal, 1597) that it was all a mistake that keeps perpetuating itself - attributing to Circaea the qualities of another genus - Mandragoras.

P.S. Our summer Fringed Gentian™ mystery plant was still in bloom in the upland this past week.

Below: A group of Culver's Root in the upland.

Culver's Root

Back to the top.

The Leatherwood and Eloise Butler’s Memorial Tablet

Leatherwood shrub and Tablet
The Leatherwood shrub at the Butler Memorial Tablet in 2008.

One is no more; one may be slowly disappearing!

When the Memorial Tablet for Eloise Butler was dedicated in 1934 a Pin Oak was planted near it as the tree was a favorite of Eloise from her east coast years - it had been introduced into Maine where she lived her first 22 years. The Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), not native to Minnesota, did not last long. Re-plantings did not either - wrong habitat - but a Leatherwood shrub, (Dirca palustris) planted sometime after the completion of the Martha Crone Shelter in 1970, survived until rot set in at the base a few years ago. A section of the trunk broke off and the remainder was not deemed salvageable so now the Tablet-sheltering shrub, with its soft lemon-yellow flowers in early spring, is gone, although a younger one remains closer to the building and a very young one at the path to the Shelter.

Leatherwood near the Tablet was appropriate as Eloise had introduced the species to the Garden in 1912 and had written about her occult experiences in finding one to transplant in her history Annals of the Wild Life Reserve.

The boulder holding the Tablet is, however, slowly being subsumed into the earth, much like the 1917 birdbath or the Sphinx of ancient Egypt. No sand here, but just the natural process of soil movement. It will not disappear in our lifetime, but use the photos for a comparison of the boulder’s position now vs 1934.

Below: 1st photo - the Memorial Tablet Boulder after the demise of the Leatherwood shrub - 2022. Compare the boulder position in the second photo on May 4, 1934, the day of dedication. [photo Friends archive at MHS].

Butler memorial tablet 2022 Butler memorial tablet 1934

Back to the top.

Previous articles

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.

May 2022 - Garden display at Sumner Library

May 2022 - Mosquito Repellant:

May 2022 - Eloise Butler consults a Medium:

May 2022 - People flock to see it! - Showy Lady's-slipper.

May 2022 - Visit the Garden - late May highlights.

April 2022 - Hepatica, a favorite early spring ephemeral.

April 2022 - Out of thin air: Can a plant census be done by air sampling?

April 2022: Notes on the Garden opening for the season.

Selections published earlier in 2022

Special: September 19, 2021: Video. Talk by author John Moriarty.
John Moriarty is senior manager of wildlife for Three Rivers Park District. He has written or co-authored five books on the natural world of Minnesota. His talk concentrates on the latest book - Minnesota’s Natural Heritage. Minnesota hosts three of the world’s ten biomes: the northern coniferous forests, the deciduous forests, and the prairie, each with its lakes, wetlands, streams and rivers. The book covers all three allowing readers to comprehend our ecosystems and its future. Link to YouTube video. 50 minutes.

Selections published in 2021

Selections published in 2020

Back to the top.