It’s spring, glorious spring!
Canada geese are incubating eggs and ice continues to leave central Minnesota lakes while common loons return. Wood frogs, which make barking calls, and western chorus frogs sounding like metallic clickers are very vocal. Crocuses and snowdrops flower in gardens. Pasqueflowers bloom on prairies and bloodroots in forests.
The showy pasqueflower of native prairie areas, so called because it blooms around the Easter (season Pasque, meaning “like Paschal,” of Easter), is also called crocus by some people. Flowers are about 2 inches across and have five to seven pale-purple to white petal-like sepals, the parts that enclose the flower. Within the flower is a ring of golden stamens and a central tuft of grayish pistils that become plumed fruits. The flowers appear before the leaves. The entire plant, including the flowers, is covered with soft silvery hairs that trap warm air next to the plant in the cool spring air.
Less than 2 percent of Minnesota’s precious native prairie ecosystem remains, but in the last 40 years or so there has been a great interest among individuals and groups in restoring former prairie areas. Planting more land to diversify prairie would restore valuable wildlife habitat if managed properly. Prairie plants don’t require herbicides, pesticides or energy-intensive cultivation. They prevent erosion and remove carbon dioxide from the air, storing it as carbon in their roots. So not only are prairies beautiful and full of plant and animal diversity, but they help to reduce climate change.
Hopefully readers of this entry can get out on a native Minnesota prairie and see the pasqueflower, the early flowering spring perennial, which happens to be the floral emblem of South Dakota and Manitoba. I plan to take my Gustavus Adolphus College environmental studies students to the Kasota Prairie near St. Peter, Minn., to see this small wonder of nature.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.