President's Letters

As published in The Fringed Gentian™.

Letter from the President

Dear Friends,

Giant Sunflower

The upland meadow is now blooming with color, mostly yellows and purples. While the bright colors capture my attention, it’s really to attract the pollinators to ensure the plant’s survival.

The yellows pop out at me, but so many of them are composite flowers with their yellow rays; what are their names? With my phone app I can quickly take a picture and get an identification. Unfortunately, I’m missing the experience with that plant – critically assessing the flower, stem, leaves, and its habitat to solve the question who are you?

I love the blooms, but I’m no expert. Eloise Butler referred to Asa Gray’s Manual of The Botany of the Northern United States first published in 1848 targeted towards botanists. [see note box below] Being a non-botanist, I need a wildflower field guide. The first one published in America was How to Know the Wild Flowers by Mrs. William Starr Dana in 1893; organized by color it sold out in five days. Many wildflower field guides have been published since including Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Northeastern and North-central North America which is organized by color then shape and structure; then highlighting the differences within family groups with his famous arrows indicating important field marks.

Botany in a Day, The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel focuses on initially learning eight major families – mint, parsley, mustard, pea, lily, grasses, rose, and aster. Knowing these patterns, 45,000 species will fall into these eight families. However, by focusing on these patterns, you hone your observations to the shape of the stem, the arrangement of the sepals and petals, and the attributes of the leaves; it’s a comprehensive view of the plant, not limited to color. The one hour version by the same author is Shanleya’s Quest for ages 9 to 99.

I’m learning to use Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. It’s easy to carry and you answer five questions. Is the flower regular, irregular, or indistinguishable? If regular how many petals does it have? Is the plant a wildflower, shrub, or vine? If a wildflower, does it have no leaves, basal leaves only, alternate leaves, or opposite or whorled leaves? The fifth question is leaf type: no leaves, leaves entire, toothed/lobed or leaves divided? The result is a three digit number that in the locator key directs you to the page with your plant. Both the above books are in the Shelter.

Woodland Sunflower
Woodland Sunflower as descibed by Jennifer Olson.

It’s a regular flower and has more than 7 regular parts = 7. It’s a wildflower (not a shrub or vine) and its leaves are opposite= 4. The leaf is entire with no teeth or divisions = 2. The number is 742 and the Locator Key sends me to page 386. Further qualities: yellow head, lanced shape leaves, and stem slightly rough – identifies the Woodland Sunflower! A jewelweed would be 133 (irregular flower, alternating leaves that are toothed) and flower is long-stalked.


I feel rewarded solving the puzzle by studying all the parts which nature has evolved into a unique plant! I can confirm it with my Eloise ButlerWild flower Garden & Bird Sanctuary 3rd Edition Plant Identification Guide, available on the Friends’ website at this link.
See you in the Garden


Newcombs cover
Cover of the current edition of Newcombs.
ID Book cover
Our Garden Plant Identification Book.

The sunflower at the beginning of the President's Letter is Giant Sunflower, Helianthus giganteus. It was originally added to the Garden by Eloise Butler in 1911 and it is found in the wild in 50 of Minnesota’s counties. Photo G D Bebeau.

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Summer 2022

Volume 70, No. 2

The Saturday Early Birders are back to their pre-Covid 2019 Saturday morning schedule!!!

It’s been a bit chilly and sometimes rainy, but the migrating warblers were great: Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Black and White and lots of Tennessee warblers were seen.  Three male Scarlet Tanagers had a territorial dispute at the Boardwalk and the Indigo Buntings have been in the Wetland and the Upland Garden. 

Again, we have nesting owls who provide us with months of observations.  The Great Horn Owls courted and mated in late January.  They nested in last year’s Red-tailed Hawk’s nest and produced 1 owlet.  Rod Miller, our local owl expert, finally found the Barred Owl’s nest in April when an adult flew into a snag. Three owlets fledged over a 10-day period in early May.  I’ve been able to watch them being fed by mom, Rod has witnessed them bathing in an ephemeral pond, and my husband spotted the adults hunting one morning, about 70% effective with their swoops. Today all three owlets were cozied up on a high branch. For me, watching these owls is a more personal “birding” – one feels part of their family, witnessing their life cycle.

Below: Barred Owlets - Photo Cheri Petro.

Barred Owlets

Both Eloise Butler and Martha Crone kept notes on bird sightings.  Ken Avery, the third gardener/curator of the Garden wrote in 1975, “This is the third year in a row that we have been aware of the owl nesting in the area. I have no way of knowing if one nested there for the last 20 years, but since we have found it for the last three years and never did before, I wonder if during those high D.D.T. years they did manage to nest or if we simply managed to miss it.”  Dr. Thomas Roberts who wrote the 2 volume Birds of Minnesota (1932) was also a birder in the Garden.

In 1939, Martha Crone added Bird Sanctuary to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden name and then it disappeared. In 1968 “and Bird Sanctuary” was officially added to the name.  The designated term Bird Sanctuary is loose, no governmental or organizational requirements required; but it’s expected to be a safe place for birds with a habitat supporting water, shelter and food.

Besides, Early Birders, there is now a 4:30 afternoon birding walk through June and may be continued through the summer – look for announcements in the Shelter.

The Friends including Judy Remington, Marijane Tessman, and Maggie Tuff arranged a wonderful spring Garden display at Sumner Library on Hwy 55 with spring ephemeral flowers, Eloise Butler history and Judy’s beautiful glass tiles. Soon they will change the display for summer.

Below: The display at Sumner Library and the three volunteers (l to r) Marijane Tessman, Maggie Tuff and Jennifer Olson. Photos by Jennifer Olson.

Sumner Library Display Case Sumner display volunteer helpers

“Our wild flower garden, with no tame flowers admitted, is strange and wholly different. It is a source of unending interest to nature enthusiasts and children” wrote Clinton Odell, President of Burma-Shave. He was a high school botany student of Eloise Butler and in the mid-forties became interested in the Garden, providing funding to expand the Upland Garden, but he also pulled weeds.  He organized the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden 70 years ago this summer.  He felt it was important for citizens to work with the Park Board to maintain and ensure the viability of the Garden for all of us. I thank the members who continue to support the Garden and the members who worked for the Garden for 70 years – volunteering in the Shelter and pulling invasives, contributing funding for Garden projects including the Shelter, the boardwalk, and annual plantings.

Walk the trails, listen to the birds and be a Friend to nature. 


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Spring 2022

Volume 70, No. 1

Clara Leavitt and Eliz Foss
Elizabeth Foss (l) and Clara Leavitt (r) mentioned in the text. MHS photo.

Dear Friends,
Peering into the Garden from the Theodore Wirth trails, I see only shadows and silhouettes. Its January and the Great Horned owls are hooting their mating duets. In February they will be nesting, following by owlets in March. Nature is transitioning into spring and the Garden will open in April for its 116th season. The blooms are ephemeral, and year-to-year blooming dates vary but the Garden with its familiar walkways is constant. Its why I return.

Lamenting the loss of native flora in the expanding Minneapolis, Eloise organized her three Minneapolis Public School botany colleagues, Clara Leavitt, Elizabeth Foss, and Julia Clifford to collect signatures of prominent citizens, University of Minnesota President Northrup, and other faculty members, including her former student, Josephine Tilden. The signed petition advocating for “a natural botanic garden” in the new Glenwood Park was presented to the Park Board and on April 15, 1907, the proposal was granted.

A generation later Rosalie Edge (1877-1962) appeared as a national advocate for natural spaces. The book, Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy by Dyana Z. Furmansky highlights what one person can achieve. She grew up overlooking Central Park but did not become an activist until she joined the women’s voting rights movement in 1915. That was her advocacy education: “organization, publicity, policy and politics.”

Rosalie Edge
Rosalie Edge at Hawk Mountain. Photo courtesy Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

As her marriage fell apart in the early 1920s, she became aware of birds everywhere. Birding in Central Park was visual and auditory, not the conventional killing and stuffing it. In 1929 she disrupted the National Associations of Audubon Societies’ annual meeting, by challenging the Society to respond to the accusations of a recent pamphlet, “A Crisis in Conservation” concerned about decline of many native birds and lack of bird protection.

Photo Bob Ambler.

She created the Emergency Conservation Committee, committed to protecting all wildlife species. While others wrote, she signed and distributed the ECC pamphlets. She successfully sued Audubon for their mailing list. She went on to create Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, led grassroots campaigns for the establishment of Olympic and King Canyon National Parks and lobbied Congress to annex 8000 acres to Yosemite National Park to protect old-growth pines. It’s an inspiring read of a women who wasn’t familiar but did much for conservation.

Oh yes, mailing lists. Our membership mailing list is confidential and will not be sold. 37% of our membership has not shared their email address with us. We were unable to timely contact 78 of you with the Zoom link for the John Moriarty presentation at the annual membership meeting. Please when you renew, document your email address, or send it to our membership committee. (email link) Our emails will be important and few.

With thousands of visitors annually to the Garden, our membership numbers remain static at 210. The membership fees support our mission of funding projects for the Garden. I trust you are inviting and encouraging your friends and neighbors to enjoy the Garden and Support the Garden.

See you in the Garden,


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