A planthopper is an insect in the superfamily Fulgoroidea that resembles a leaf in its environment. It often hops, like a grasshopper, for transportation, but usually walks slowly to avoid detection. There are more than 12,500 planthopper species worldwide.
Citrus flatid planthopper (Metcalfa pruinosa) is native and very common in eastern North America. It has been introduced into southern Europe and is now an invasive species of concern in orchards and vineyards there. It feeds on a wide variety of woody species including maple, elm, willow, black locust, dogwood, hawthorn, elder, grape, and raspberry.
The body of citrus flatid planthopper is flattened laterally, giving it a wedge-shaped appearance when viewed from above. The wings and body are moderately to densely covered with a mealy, bluish-white, waxy powder. When at rest, the wings are tent-like, almost vertically, over the body. There are two dark spots on the basal half of each forewing.
There are about 75 species of spurred gentian (genus Helenia) worldwide. Only two occur in North America north of Mexico. Only one, American spurred gentian (Halenia deflexa ssp. deflexa), is found in Minnesota.
American spurred gentian is an often overlooked member of the Gentianaceae (gentian) family. Its flowers are much smaller and less showy than the more common bottle, pleated, and fringed gentians. It blooms in northern Minnesota under partial shade in moist coniferous forests (especially at the edges), cedar swamps, and bogs, and on river banks. It is often encountered on woodland trails that are wide enough to allow some sunlight to filter through.
From July to August American spurred gentian produces clusters of green to yellowish, often purplish-tinged flowers. The flowers have four petals, each of which has a long, downward-pointing spur at the base. There are no similar species in Minnesota.
There are at least 78 species of bladderpod (genus Physaria) recognized in North America. Most of them are restricted to western United States. Only Louisiana bladderpod (Physaria ludoviciana) is found in Minnesota. The natural range of this plant is from Montana and North Dakota, south to New Mexico and Arizona, and north to Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In Minnesota it is found in full sun growing on sandy soil on steep, south-facing, weathered, dolomitic sandstone bluffs. Spring Creek Prairie SNA has one of the largest known populations. Most of the other populations are within the city limits of Redwing.
Louisiana bladderpod is is common in its natural range but is classified as endangered in Minnesota and Illinois, threatened in Wisconsin. The few known populations in Minnesota may have been transplanted by a seed dropped by a bird, or may have survived from a time when the central plains extended into the area long ago.
Louisiana bladderpod is identified by its narrow, unlobed leaves forming a basal rosette; yellow flowers; and inflated, hairy, more or less globe-shaped fruit. There are no similar species in Minnesota.
Photo by Kirk Nelson
Pilot Knob is an historic site in Mendota Heights on the east bank of the Minnesota River. Two overlooks provide spectacular vistas of Fort Snelling, the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, and the Minneapolis skyline. A half-mile of paved and mowed trails include interpretive signs that describe the history of the site. The trail connects to Dakota County’s Big Rivers Regional Trail, a paved bike trail. Bald Eagles and migrating raptors are often seen flying overhead.
Pilot Knob is known to the Dakota as Oheyawahi, or “a hill much visited.” It served as a burial site for for Dakota Villages along the Minnesota River. It is here that the Dakota signed a treaty in 1851 that transferred millions of acres of land to the United States. The City of Mendota Heights acquired 25 acres on the hill in 2006. Overhead power lines were buried underground, brush was cut and removed, prairie was restored, and wildflowers and oak trees were planted.
Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Township is one of three units that make up the 862-acre Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park. Its 320 acres encompass oak-aspen woodland, restored prairie, and marsh and other wetlands. It has four miles of hiking trails that include an interpretive trail and boardwalks over wetlands. In the winter, some of the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Osprey and Bald Eagle have been seen flying overhead. For the kids it has Discovery Hollow Nature Play Area & Garden and many programs offering educational opportunities.
Marsh skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) is a common and widespread plant in wetlands across North America. It is found throughout Minnesota in wet meadows, marshes, bogs, fens, swamps, stream banks, pond edges, and roadside ditches. It is often overlooked as its weak stems lean against nearby plants and its blue flowers, though showy, appear sparsely.
There are five skullcap species in Minnesota. Marsh skullcap is distinguished by its leaves which are narrow, no more than ¾″ wide, shallowly round-toothed, very short stalked or stalkless, and pinnately veined with lateral veins that branch and rejoin before reaching the margin; flowers more than ½″ long rising from leaf axils but not at the end of the stem; and its preference for wetlands.
Maryland black snakeroot (Sanicula marilandica) is a very common and widespread perennial herb. It is found throughout Minnesota in moist woodlands, at marsh edges, and along river banks. From June to August it produces small clusters of tiny flowers. In late summer the flowers are replaced by seed capsules that are covered with hooked bristles which cling to the fur of passing animals and the legs of passing hikers.
There are five species of black snakeroot, four of which are found in Minnesota. Careful examination of multiple features is required to tell them apart. Maryland black snakeroot is distinguished by basal and lower stem leaves with 7 divisions; flower clusters with 12 to 25 flowers, always including both long-stalked male flowers and a few stalkless flowers with both male and female parts; sepals as long or nearly as long as the petals, and greenish-white flower petals.
Meadow fritillary (Boloria bellona) is the most common and the most widespread of the lesser fritillaries. It is found from mid-May to mid-September throughout Minnesota in sedge meadows, grassy fields, hay fields, pastures, and roadsides. Males can be seen patrolling low over grassy areas with a slow, zigzagging flight during the day.
Adults feed on the nectar of flowers, mostly those in the Asteraceae family, and especially those with yellow flowers. Caterpillars feed on common blue violet, small white violet, and Canadian white violet.
Meadow fritillary is a medium-sized brush-foot butterfly. It is identified by the squared-off wing tip; the upper side of the wings lacking chevron-shaped, inward-pointing spots and usually lacking a black marginal line; and the underside of the wings having a pale purplish sheen on the outer half and lacking the white or silver spots found on most lesser fritillaries.
American Eastern Yellow Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria var. guessowii) is a large, conspicuous, yellow variety of one of the most recognizable mushrooms in the world. It is widespread in North America, common in northeastern United States, and not uncommon in Minnesota. It occurs in coniferous, deciduous, or mixed woodlands, woodland edges, and among planted trees. It is found from June to November, solitary, scattered, in groups, or in fairy rings, on the ground under pine, spruce, fir, aspen, or birch trees. It is mycorrhizal, obtaining its nutrients from the rootlets of a tree while facilitating greater absorption of nutrients from the soil by the tree.
Most guidebooks and authorities state that American Eastern Yellow Fly Agaric is poisonous, and it is true that about 90% of mushroom-related fatalities involve Amanitas. Fly agaric contains the hallucinogenic compounds muscimole and ibotenic acid. They may have been involved in prehistoric rituals. It is poisonous in large, possibly even in moderate amounts, but not normally fatal.
Mushrooms in the genus Amanita are identified by pale gills usually not attached to the stem; a white spore print; a universal veil that creates a sac-like base or other distinctive feature at the base of the stem; and caps that are more or less dry. Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) are identified by cottony scales on the cap; a partial veil that creates a persistent ring or collar of tissue at the middle or near the top of the stalk; and one ring or two to four concentric rings of scales at the base of the stalk. American Eastern Yellow Fly Agaric is distinguished by a bright yellow or orangish-yellow cap that is often reddish-orange or yellowish-orange in the center.
Photo by Robert Briggs
Split Gill (Schizophyllum commune) is one of the most common and widespread mushrooms on the planet. It occurs on six continents, absent only from Antarctica, where there are no trees to support it. It is also one of the best studied fungi species. The genome was sequenced in in 2010, and it is often used in the laboratory because it fruits so readily.
Once thought to be a single species with worldwide distribution, Split Gill is now known to be a complex of several closely related species that cannot be reliably distinguished based on their morphology. There are more than 28,000 sexes of Schizophyllum commune. Each individual is sexually compatible with 27,997 (99.98%) of other individuals worldwide.
Split Gill is found year round, scattered, in small groups, in rows, or in fused clusters, on stumps, logs, and sticks of dead hardwood, especially oak. Worldwide it is found decomposing more than 150 different species. The cap is whitish or grayish, densely hairy, and small, less than 1½″ in diameter. The “gills” appear hairy when dry, smooth and split down the middle longitudinally when moist. They close up in dry weather, protecting the spores, and open when moistened. Split Gill is considered inedible in North America and Europe due to its toughness and small size. However, it is used in the cuisines of places with dryer climates, where fleshy mushrooms are difficult to transport to market.