Author Archives: John Valo

Taschenberg’s long-necked ant (Dolichoderus taschenbergi)

Taschenberg’s long-necked ant
Photo by Luciearl

Taschenberg’s long-necked ant (Dolichoderus taschenbergi) is a small odorous ant. It occurs in the United States from Maine to North Dakota, south to Georgia and Louisiana, and in Canada from Nova Scotia to Manitoba. It is uncommon throughout its range but is most abundant in the north. It is found in open areas including old fields, woodland edges, and bogs. It forms huge colonies, often with multiple queens and more than 10,000 workers. It constructs igloo-shaped dome nests, 2″ to 8″ in height, using grasses, sphagnum mosses, spruce and pine needles, and other shredded vegetation. It the spring it can sometimes be found massed aboveground warming in the sun.

Workers are uniformly colored. The overall color is sometimes interpreted as “dark brownish-black”, sometimes as “all black”, sometimes as “jet black”. The head and front part of the body are dull, the rear of the body is shiny. The last segment of the front part of the body (propodeum) is an important identifying feature. When viewed from above, the propodeum is squarish, about as long as wide. When viewed from the side, the propodeum is distinctly concave and has the appearance of a bottle opener.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/Taschenbergs_long-necked_ant.html

Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa)

round-lobed hepatica
Photo by Luciearl

Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa) is one of the first wildflowers to appear in Minnesota woodlands in the spring. In early April it can be identified by the rounded, purple, three-lobed leaves laying flat on the ground. These are leaves that have overwintered from the previous year. The name hepatica is Latin for liver, and refers to the shape and color of the leaves, which resemble the human liver.

By the time the flowers appear the overwintered leaves are dying back. The flowers have from 5 to 12 white, pale pink, or pale blue petal-like sepals (usually 6), up to 30 white stamens, and a green center.

After the flowers have bloomed new green leaves emerge from the base on densely hairy stalks. The leaves are divided into 3 lobes shallowly cut to near the middle of the blade. The lobes are rounded at the tip. When young they are densely hairy with long, soft, shaggy hairs. As they age they become hairless or almost hairless.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/round-lobed_hepatica.html

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)

leatherleaf
Photo by Luciearl

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is common and abundant shrub of northern wetlands. It occurs throughout northern Europe and Asia and northern North America. In Minnesota it occurs in the north-central and northeast regions south to the Metro region. It is found in open areas in bogs, marshes, swamps, and floodplains, and on riverbanks and lakeshores. It grows under full sun in acidic, nutrient-poor soils. It is the dominant shrub of dwarf shrub wetland communities.

Leatherleaf is a perennial, evergreen, dwarf shrub. It can be 8″ to 60″ tall but is usually no more than 40″ in height. It often forms dense thickets. The stems have many stiff, wiry branches. The leaves often point upward from the stem. The leaf underside is densely covered with white or rust-colored scales. The inflorescence is an unbranched cluster of up to 20 small flowers hanging downward at the end of the stem and branches. The white, urn-shaped flowers appear from early May through mid-June. Flattened globe-shaped fruits ripen in the fall and remain on the plant through the winter.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/leatherleaf.html

Northern purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea)

northern purple pitcherplant

Northern purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea) is an easily recognized, long-lived, carnivorous plant. There are no other plants in Minnesota that even vaguely resemble it. It occurs in the United States from Maine to New Jersey west to Minnesota, in Washington State, and throughout southern Canada. It is found in bogs, fens, swamps and peatlands. It grows under full sun in sphagnum moss or in soil that has both peat and sand. It obtains most of its nutrients from captured insects. The soil it grows in is nutrient-poor and usually acidic, and cannot support many other plants. Individual plants can live up to 50 years in favorable conditions. However, its population has been declining due to habitat loss and possibly to nitrogen deposition from air pollution.

Northern purple pitcherplant rises on a radiating rosette of 6 to 10 leaves and a single flowering stem. It often forms dense clumps, sometimes floating masses at the edges of bog ponds and lakes. The leaves are modified into pitchers with an erect hood at the top and an orifice that is open to the sky, allowing it to collect rainwater. The inner surface of the hood is covered with numerous, stiff, downward-pointing hairs. The solitary flower is purplish-red and droops at the end of a long leafless stalk.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/northern_purple_pitcherplant.html

Hampton Woods WMA

Red Oak - Sugar Maple - Basswood - (Bitternut Hickory) Forest
Red Oak – Sugar Maple – Basswood – (Bitternut Hickory) Forest

Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Dakota County is one of Minnesota’s newest WMAs. Designated on July 14, 2017, it came about through the collaborative efforts of the Minnesota DNR, Dakota County, Friends of the Mississippi River, and local landowners. It provides protection for the largest contiguous oak forest and one of the largest remaining wooded areas in Dakota County. Surrounded by mostly farm land, it is the only forest for miles and provides critical habitat for migrating birds. The Minnesota Biological Survey gives most of this WMA an Outstanding Biodiversity Significance rank.

There is some new plant growth to be seen this weekend (April 18-19, 2020), including numerous individual wild leeks, small clumps of fragrant bedstraw, small tufts of woodland sedges, large patches of cut-leaved toothwort, and a few lonely bloodroot. The cut-leaved toothwort and bloodroot had unopened buds on Friday, but those buds may produce the first spring flowers on Saturday or Sunday. Seventeen bird species were spotted on Friday, including migrating Yellow-rumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Destinations/Hampton_Woods_WMA.html

Hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hirsuta)

hairy honeysuckle

Hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hirsuta) is a common woody vine of the Great Lakes region of North America. It is common in the northeastern third of Minnesota, where it is at the southwestern extent of its range. It is found in moist woodlands, forest edges and openings, thickets, and swamps. It grows under full or partial sun in sandy or rocky soil. It sometimes creates loose colonies.

Hairy honeysuckle vines are usually 8′ to 10′ long but can reach 16′ or longer. They climb on adjacent vegetation (twining) or creep along the ground (trailing). When twining, they spiral counter-clockwise, from the lower left to the upper right. When trailing, they produce roots where the stem contacts the ground. The stem detaches at that point, creating a new plant. The leaves are opposite and broadly oval. The uppermost pair of leaves, sometimes the uppermost two pairs, are fused together at the base to form single diamond-shaped to elliptic or round leaves. The inflorescence is a cluster of yellow flowers at the end of the stem. The flowers appear after the leaves are fully developed and peak from mid-June to mid-July. In Minnesota they are likely pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths. The fruit is a small, orangish-red berry. It matures in late July to mid-September, and remains on the plant until picked off by a bird or mammal.

Hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hirsuta) is a common woody vine of the Great Lakes region of North America. It is common in the northeastern third of Minnesota, where it is at the southwestern extent of its range. It is found in moist woodlands, forest edges and openings, thickets, and swamps. It grows under full or partial sun in sandy or rocky soil. It sometimes creates loose colonies.

Hairy honeysuckle vines are usually 8′ to 10′ long but can reach 16′ or longer. They climb on adjacent vegetation (twining) or creep along the ground (trailing). When twining, they spiral counter-clockwise, from the lower left to the upper right. When trailing, they produce roots where the stem contacts the ground. The stem detaches at that point, creating a new plant. The leaves are opposite and broadly oval. The uppermost pair of leaves, sometimes the uppermost two pairs, are fused together at the base to form single diamond-shaped to elliptic or round leaves. The inflorescence is a cluster of yellow flowers at the end of the stem. The flowers appear after the leaves are fully developed and peak from mid-June to mid-July. In Minnesota they are likely pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths. The fruit is a small, orangish-red berry. It matures in late July to mid-September, and remains on the plant until picked off by a bird or mammal.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/Index/Plants_C_H.html

Tony Schmidt Regional Park

Tony Schmidt Regional Park

Tony Schmidt Regional Park is a Ramsey County park located in Arden Hills, stretching from County Road E and Lake Johanna Boulevard along the north shore of Lake Johanna to Mounds View High School and the 35W-694 cloverleaf interchange. It is largely a series of wetlands connected by streams and open bodies of water, nestled in among woodsy residential neighborhoods and other city parks, like Charles Perry Park and Chatham Open Area. The park is basically in three sections – an active railway cuts across the southern portion, and County Road E2 cuts across the north portion. There are picnic grounds and shelters, playgrounds, a play field with backstop (Perry Park has three ball diamonds), and a boat launch, swimming beach, and fishing pier on Lake Johanna. A paved walking trail heads north from the main parking area, going through a tunnel under the railway and leading to an at-grade crossing at County Road E2. There are also several turf/dirt trails that lead off at different points; one trail leads over to Snelling Avenue and Lake Valentine. The campuses of two universities can be seen from the park: Bethel University across Lake Valentine, and the University of Northwestern-St Paul across Lake Johanna. A 2011 article by Jessica Bakeman in the Star Tribune also describes how residents around Lake Johanna take great care to keep the lake clean and free of invasive species like Eurasian milfoil (http://strib.mn/17kn2Zj). Near the beginning of the paved trail, a signpost talks about how a segment of the Arden Hills trail system was dedicated to the memory of former Governor Elmer L. Andersen. All in all, it is a well-maintained park, offering something for all comers. — Kirk Nelson

Text and Photo by Kirk Nelson

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Destinations/Tony_Schmidt_Regional_Park.html

Pincushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum)

pincushion moss
Photo by Luciearl

Pincushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) is a common, large, tall, tuft-forming moss. It is very common in the eastern United States, and common in eastern Minnesota, where it is at the western extent of its range. It is found under partial sun to medium shade in forests, bogs, and swamps. It grows in acidic soil, on rotting logs and stumps, on the bases of trees, and on rock ledges. It is tolerant of disturbance and is often found in cemeteries, in city parks, on trailsides, and in the shade of large buildings.

Pincushion forms a large, smooth, dome-shaped, green or light green to whitish cushion on the ground. The cushion is a dense tuft of numerous individual stems that clearly radiate from a central point of origin. The stems are closely packed and difficult to separate. In favorable conditions the cushion can be up to 5″ tall 40″ in diameter.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/pincushion_moss.html

Boreal Oakmoss (Evernia mesomorpha)

Boreal Oakmoss
Photo by Luciearl

Boreal Oakmoss (Evernia mesomorpha) is a common and widespread shrubby lichen. It occurs across the globe in the northern latitudes. In the United States it is restricted to the northern tier of states. In Minnesota it is common in the northern third of the state, very common in the Arrowhead region, with only scattered occurrences south to the Metro region. It is found in sunny sites in forests and woodlands. It grows on the branches of both deciduous and coniferous trees. It is relatively tolerant of pollution, which allows it to survive near urban areas.

The vegetative body is shrub-like. It consists of numerous, loosely hanging, evenly forked branches. It looks something like an antler lichen but has broader branches. The branches are soft when wet, and pliable, not brittle, when dry. The upper and lower surfaces are green, wrinkled, and usually have abundant, coarse, granules. These granules are the main form vegetative reproduction. Sexual reproductive structures are rarely produced.

Boreal Oakmoss is not edible. Handling it may cause severe dermatitis.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Fungi/Boreal_Oakmoss.html

Bristly Beard Lichen (Usnea hirta)

Bristly Beard Lichen
Photo by Luciearl

Bristly Beard Lichen (Usnea hirta) is a very common shrubby lichen, It occurs throughout Europe and the Americas. It is common in northeast and north-central Minnesota, very common in the Arrowhead region, but completely absent from the remaining two-thirds of the state. It is found in coniferous and mixed forests growing on the bark and twigs of sick or dying coniferous trees, rarely also on birch trees, very rarely also on rock.

Bristly Beard Lichen is pale, grayish-green, yellowish-green, or blackish-gray, and is variable in shape. It may appear as a few long drooping strands; an erect, densely branched, shrub-like tuft; or a combination of the two. The main branches are unequal in length and have numerous short side branches. They are usually short, erect, and stiff when dry, limp when wet. Drooping branches, if present, are long and contorted. All branches are angular, not round, in cross section, are swollen at the base, and are often broadly forked. The base of each branch is the same color as the rest of the branch, not blackened. The surface is dull to shiny and never cracked.

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Fungi/Bristly_Beard_Lichen.html