Woodland Wildflowers in a late spring

SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2013

It finally felt like spring on Sunday and a large group of folks turned out for the 1 pm public tour. We anticipated this and were prepared with two guides to split up the group. These notes are from one of the groups, but they reflect much of what was seen by both groups.

We left the “back” of the Visitor Center, heading across Longenecker to Gallistel Woods. We paused just a few steps into Longenecker, however, to examine a mess of feathers. It looks like an animal (coyote?) had a turkey dinner. We were thrown off for a moment by what looked very much like a tail. We decided it must be the “beard” of the turkey – but were surprised that the beard material felt very wiry and hair-like and not at all feathery.

Moving across Longenecker, we paused to admire the diminutive but beautiful blossoms on the maples and other trees. If you are sneezing now, you can blame the trees. Many trees that are blooming now have wind-pollinated (technical term = anemophilic) flowers, and consequently, the air is thick with pollen.

In Gallistel we took inventory of the spring ephemerals. This appears to be the latest spring on record, with bloom dates surpassing previously recorded “latest” bloom dates for a number of species. We did see a few species in bloom, however: hepatica, bloodroot, and a few renegade toothwort flowers. We saw buds on most of the rest of the toothwort plants, Virginia bluebells, trout lily, trillium, May apple, and spring beauty. And we saw the vegetative parts of wood poppy, false rue anemone, blue cohosh, wild ginger, twinleaf, and others. We saw a garter snake in Gallistel and on the Icky boardwalk, we heard the chorus frogs calling. The animals are out and mating!

Back behind the Visitor Center, on our return, we were greeted by a red-tailed hawk perched in the autumn purple ash. It was a flustered little (big!!) hawk and spent some time ruffling and settling and ruffling its feathers. And skwaking. We walked around to the front of the Visitor Center to see the pasque flower and prairie smoke, both in bloom.

Just after we ended the tour, one visitor pointed out some rabbit legs that were projecting out just a few inches off of the roof. Perhaps that flustered hawk had just made a rabbit kill, and dropped the rabbit on the roof? Or ate it on the roof ? (Only the feet were visible, so the condition of the rest of the body was unknown.)

If the weather remains warm, the spring ephemerals will not last long. Come visit the Arb soon if you want to catch them. Happy spring!

Sara Christopherson, Arboretum 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.