Mother’s Day – Butterflies, Turtles, and Azaleas

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012

It was a busy Sunday at the Arb—lots of folks out to enjoy the sunny 70 degree weather and Mothers’ Day. A very large group of us took a shorter (1 hour) tour today. We wound down through the native plant garden on the path from the Visitor Center’s front door. We admired many species along the way, including the wispy tufts of prairie smoke (aptly named) gone to seed, and the diminutive flowering blue-eyed grass. We crossed through Curtis prairie and saw a number of butterflies—during the full hour we saw monarchs, an eastern tiger swallowtail, a mourning cloak, several red admirals, as well as a handful of sulphurs and perhaps a few others.
At Teal pond, things were quiet. We spotted one…then two…then eight and maybe even more turtles. Then we noticed the tadpoles—I’m pretty sure of the common toad. There were many of them, but they were tricky to spot. The quiet was broken abruptly by three mallards (two male, one female) that got into a heated argument, undeterred by the 40+ of us on the belly board.
Continuing around toward the corner of Longenecker gardens, we stopped to compare the native wood phlox with the non-native and invasive dame’s rocket. Perhaps the easiest distinction is that the wood phlox flower has five petals while dame’s rocket has only four petals. When the flowers are gone, you can compare leaves: wood phlox leaves are opposite while dame’s rocket leaves are alternate. Wood phlox is also much smaller than dame’s rocket.
The lilacs, which usually cooperate with Mothers’ Day/graduation, are a bit off-schedule this year, as you are probably aware. So, in Longenecker we stopped instead to admire the azaleas, flowering in bright pastels that remind me of sherbet. If you want to learn more about azaleas (and rhododendrons), come to the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens Tour this Wednesday, starting at 7 pm. Azaleas and rhododendrons are the topic of the tour, lead by the woody ornamentals specialist, Dr. McCown.

Sara Cohen Christopherson, Naturalist

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.