On Thursday of last week, some of the HUG campus employees ventured out from our offices and took a stroll around the campus to see what we could find on a phenology walk. We wandered into the pine plantation and observed what was growing in the understory. We also took a look at what was growing along our dirt roads on campus. Perhaps you were there for all of it, some of it, or maybe you had to miss it, but this is some of what we found and discussed! We will hopefully be doing more phenology walks, which will be open to employees as well as the public, so be watching for announcements on dates & times!
These are wildflowers that are in bloom in the Pine River area right now, so head out on a hike and enjoy nature's scenery!
Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) - a native perennial in the Bellflower family, also known as bluebell. The droop to this bell-shaped purple flower helps to protect the pollen from dew and rain. In the Pacific Northwest, the Haida Indians believed that picking this flower caused it to rain, which is why they are called "blue rain flowers" in that region. It is a circumpolar plant that grows at relatively high latitudes. In Europe, the leaves are sometimes eaten raw in salads and are thought to have minor medicinal qualities.
Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) - a native perennial in the Aster family. This plant is the only one of its species in of North America. Identifiable by a large round cluster of many individual white flowers and long, narrow leaves that are densely hairy underneath, causing them to look white. This plant was used by Native Americans for many medicinal purposes, including boiling in tea or a steam bath for rheumatism, smoking to treat colds and making poultices for treatment of sores.
Goatsbeard (Tragopogon dubius) - a nonnative biennial in the Aster family. Originally from Europe, this large, yellow, dandelion-like flower turns its flower head to face the sun, but the flower closes by noon (as shown above). It has a long tap root that can be used as a coffee substitute. When it seeds, it looks like a giant dandelion head, which are sometimes referred to "blow balls".
Butter & Eggs (Linaria vulgaris) - an invasive perennial in the Snapdragon family, also known as toadflax. Originally from Europe and now a garden escapee. The name comes from the two-tone pea-like flowers; the darker orange part, which looks like an egg yolk, and the lighter yellow part around it, which is the butter. The orange part is actually a "honey guide", a target to guide insects into the long spur of the flower (where the nectar is located).
Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) - a native perennial in the Ginseng family. Identifiable by its three distinct round clusters of small, white flowers and clusters of round purple/black berries on a leafless stalk. The roots are very aromatic and have been used as a substitute for true sarsaparilla in root beer. The berries are often eaten by wildlife and while they are apparently not toxic to humans, they are said to be not worth the effort.
White Campion (Silene latifolia) - a nonnative annual in the Pink (or Carnation) family. The bright white petals of this flower come out during the night to attract night-flying insects, like moths, to pollinate. During the day, the white petals retract back into the flower's sticky calyx, or "bladder", which is where the nickname bladder campion comes from.
Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) - a nonnative biennial in the Aster family. In the first year this plant is a rosette of low to the ground, spiky leaves. In the second year, it sends up a tall, spiky flower stalk, with spiky narrow leaves ending in a sharp spine, and has large, reddish purple flower heads sitting on a spiky green base. Lots of spikes - beware! The seeds are a favorite food of the American Goldfinch, which also uses the parachute-like, soft, thistledown to line their nests. This is why the Goldfinch often nests later than other summer birds.
Rabbit Foot's Clover (Trifolium pretense) - a nonnative annual of the Pea family. Identifiable by its dense, cylindrical, fuzzy flower heads ranging from pale pink to white, this species can be found in large numbers along roadsides. This plant helps out by fixing nitrogen into the soil, as do many other members of its family.
Ox-eyed Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) - a nonnative perennial in the Aster family. This plant originated in Europe but has become quite common here, often seen along roadsides. This plant contains pyrethrum, which is a chemical used in organic pesticides because it repels insects. Also in this photo is one Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) - a native member of the Aster family. Historically, this plant had many medicinal uses. The Ojibwe people used the roots to make a poultice to treat snake bites and steeped them to cure colds or worms in children.
So get outside & find some of Minnesota's beautiful wildflowers. While you're out there, don't forget to also enjoy some of Minnesota's delicious wild berries, like these blueberries & raspberries! (But only if you are sure of your identification as something edible - berries can be dangerous!)