Fall 2017 VOL. 65 No. 3



Jewel Box of Color

A New Plant Guide from Eloise Butler and Friends

by Diana Thottungal

Finally, finally ... a spiral bound plant guide that will not flop closed when you try to use it. Right there it’s one up on any other guide available. And you can tie your pencil into the spiral.

plant ID book cover

Friends of the Wild Flower Garden has recently published the handy Plant Identification Guide - Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary for use both in and outside the Garden. A vivid and very packable 8½ x 5½ inches, it’s the perfect holiday gift to get any native plant enthusiast through the winter. Its 75 pages pop with thumbnail photos of 403 species of flowering forbs, small shrubs and ferns. An additional 236 images with notes on tricky plants to ID will help the user iron out any points of confusion.

The guide covers just about every wildflower in the Garden, and therefore nearly all in Theodore Wirth Park and the Twin Cities area, except for bog and lake plants.

The primary arrangement is by color, so you do not need to be a taxonomic expert to find what you’re looking for. Within each color section, plants are listed by scientific name so that related flowers are grouped together – asters, blazing stars, etc.

Information under each photo also includes common name and alternate names, Garden location, native or non-native status, season of bloom and rarity in Minnesota.

all coded with single letters to pack a maximum of information into minimum space, with short descriptive notes where necessary.


plant id book inside

The guide offers more than just pretty pictures of flowers. Relevant features for identification are also included: leaves, stems, bracts, phyllaries – whatever is needed to help identify a plant.

As a bonus, 114 grasses, sedges, large shrubs and trees are line-listed without photos. The guide is fully indexed and contains a history of the Garden, its curators and the Friends organization.

So who created this treasure trove? Long-time Friends board member Gary Bebeau, treasurer for the Friends since 2001. A native plant gardener for over 30 years, Gary built and maintains the Friends website, supplies its more than 10,000 plant photos and writes the extensive plant information pages that form the basis for the plant ID guide.

The price is $20 plus $3 shipping. It can be ordered online from friendsofthewildflowergarden.org, or by mailing a check to Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc., PO Box 3793, Minneapolis, MN 55403. All sales proceeds go to projects funded by the Friends for the benefit of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Diana Thottungal is a retired Garden naturalist.

book image

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Letter from the President

Dear Friends,
I was recently asked, “Why should people become involved with the Friends? What can they do to support the Garden?”

The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden is a diverse and engaged community of people from all over the Twin Cities and beyond. Our members deeply appreciate the Garden and want to support the vision of an extraordinary educator and scientist, Eloise Butler, who first sought to preserve this place over a century ago. We provide resources for public events in the Garden sponsored by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, including Mother’s Day weekend programming and Showy Lady’s Slipper Days. We have a fantastic website that routinely receives between 3,000 and 4,000 unique visits each month, and a newsletter that is informative and beautiful.

Friends members and donors have the satisfaction of knowing that the Garden is stronger because of their involvement.

boardwalk photo
© 2017 Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. Photo used with permission of Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc.

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The Friends recruits, equips and trains volunteer staff to help visitors in the Shelter and on trails, and to work with the invasive species removal teams inside and outside the Garden. The organization also raises funds for special projects, like new plantings, that enhance the quality of the visitor experience. Also, the Friends is energetically raising funds to help the Park Board complete Phase II of the award-winning Garden boardwalk, which will provide additional space for outdoor education.

Over the last ten years, only 5.1% of Friends’ revenues have gone to administrative and fundraising costs. The rest has gone to fund programming that advances our mission.

To support the Garden, please join the Friends if you aren’t already a member – options for joining are included in this newsletter. You can get in touch with me at this email address or Jennifer Dunne, Volunteer Coordinator, at this email address, to find out about giving time and/or donating funds now or as a memorial or bequest. It’s also helpful if you let your Park Board commissioner and the at-large commissioners know you value the Garden, and please let them know if you are a Friends member, as well.

You can also support the Garden by telling others about it and bringing them for a visit. Set expectations for the season. Unlike a formal English garden or a cottage perennial garden, the structure and beauty here are more subtle. Spring brings the fleeting charms of the ephemerals and the exposed graceful contours of the land. Summer has its orchids and other showy blooms. Autumn impresses with burnished grasses and bursts of solidago and asters. Come visit the Garden – I know you and your guests will find something here to delight.

Kathy Connelly

Additional information:

Life of Eloise Butler
Garden Boardwalk Project

Call for Board Nominations

All members in good standing are invited to submit nominations for candidates to serve as Director of the Board of Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. You may nominate yourself. Candidates must be dues-paying members by May 1, 2018, or the date of the annual meeting of the Members, whichever is later. Nominations must be received no later than February 2, 2018, and may be emailed or to Nominating Committee, PO Box 3793, Minneapolis, MN 55403-0793.

Noteworthy Garden Note Cards

We have reprinted our popular note cards originally issued for the 100th anniversary of the Wildflower Garden. The box of 12 note cards with envelopes contains 4 each of 3 different images from Jennifer Davis’ 2007 painting based on Garden themes. Each boxed set is $18 plus $3 shipping per order (continental U.S. addresses only). Order online or mail a check to Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc., PO Box 3793, Minneapolis, MN 55403. Orders will be shipped postal within a week of receipt; if we have your email address we will notify you of shipment. All sales proceeds go to projects funded by the Friends for the benefit of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Order form and larger photos at the link above.

Garden Curator's Notes

Susan Wilkins MPRB Logo

Now that the role of President of Friends of the Wild Flower Garden has officially changed hands, I’d like to send a whole-hearted thank you to Pam Weiner and a warm welcome to Kathy Connelly. Pam’s wise leadership, compassionate and steady stance, skillful navigation of complex issues and capacity to take the long view have benefited the Garden greatly over the past ten years. It’s been a true pleasure to work with her, and I anticipate an equally fruitful collaboration with Kathy. I appreciate Kathy’s depth of knowledge of the natural world, her readiness to address new challenges and embrace change, and her intelligent approach to leadership.

In a fresh direction for my Letters in The Fringed Gentian™, I want to reveal more about the inner workings of the Garden, how I think about this special place and what drives the work and decisions here. To start, I’d like to share with you a broader understanding I have come to on changes I’ve observed in the Garden.

How do we feel about nature?

I wrestle with the tension between an ideal of the natural world and a practical knowledge of how these 15 acres function. An insight I have gained over the years is that we are a self-referential species: we believe our particular view of the world is a good summation of how nature is supposed to be. This approach often plays out as a desire to keep things the same or perhaps return to a simpler, more unspoiled time. It gives us a certain sense of security and stability, even moral resolve. The problem is that this is a static view of nature.

Nature to its very core is the epitome of change.

I have observed here at the Garden that nature is anything but static. There are the changes that we expect and accept, like winter into spring and an oak seedling growing into a tree. There are the changes that we don’t consent to, like the presence of buckthorn and invasive earthworms in our forests and the very natural shift, over time, of the composition of plants in a woodland, meadow or bog.

Natural Resources Specialist Chee Yang heads into the Garden to remove narrow leaf cattail, an invasive species in the wetland. [Photo Betsy McNerney]

To find a starting point for clearer observation and decision-making, one has to let go, if only for a moment, the perception of change as a good or bad force and simply see change as the force that it is, subtly and vividly at work in the natural world.

Change is reshaping the places we love.

I admit I generally don’t like change when it comes to the places I love. Here at the Garden, for instance, I like the forests to look and behave in ways that are familiar and to my liking: a healthy layer of leaf litter all season long; soft supple soil under the duff; an abundance of wildflowers, ferns, sedges, grasses, shrubs and trees; everything regenerating on its own with no invasive plants. But that’s not what I see. The forests aren’t behaving! The soils show bare by midsummer, sometimes compacted and dry, many forest species are not regenerating and invasive plants are continually popping up.

Why? Relatively new factors like invasive plants and earthworms are infiltrating the forest, making conditions more inhospitable to native plants. Nature will continue to change in the “natural” ways we expect — e.g. forest succession and seasonal transformation — but in addition we are experiencing a host of other changes which bring new conditions to grapple with and will in turn influence the “natural” changes.

So what are we doing?

Our best position for realizing the goals we’ve created for this revered space is to be thoughtful and educated stewards of change – all change. We work to understand the significance and the impacts of known changes that are occurring. We continue to manage the actions we have already put in place to counter adverse changes, such as our highly effective efforts to control invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard. We anticipate and prepare for more changes, thoughtfully implementing adaptive management practices that are forward thinking.

Through it all, we endeavor to be creative and dexterous in bringing about the best possible outcomes for the ongoing spirit and vitality of the Garden. This all matters so much because we need these natural places and wild garden spaces to be healthy, dynamic, diverse and beautiful. They nourish us in a way that nothing else can.

Additional Background:

The Wetland at Eloise Butler

Susan's notes on the Garden's first 100 years.


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Q & A with Kathy Connelly

New Friends President Explores the Garden

About 15 years ago, Kathy Connelly was looking for an opportunity to volunteer, and with her love of native plants, she found a place in the Garden. She has been a Friends board member and Friends historian, contributed articles to the Gentian and served as its editor. She has removed invasive plants, volunteered at the Shelter and helped on special Friends projects. Kathy rejoined the Board in 2016 and took office as President at the 2017 Annual Board of Directors Meeting.

Where and how did you grow up?

I grew up in St. Paul, in the Highland-Groveland- Macalester neighborhood during a time when you could go outside and smell the rich aroma of turned earth as farmers east of town plowed their fields. I was born with poor vision but we didn’t know it until I was in fourth grade, so I had all those lovely years of being in an impressionistic world. It caused me to focus on small things that were up close, and I think that helped make me a little naturalist early on. I’d walk and explore for hours, fabricating small sculptures with found objects in nature and clay dug from the gullies in and around Highland Park.

Having majored in English at Notre Dame, and it being the economic doldrums of the early 1980’s I deferred my “launch,” and went to law school. My motivation was a desire to help with environmental concerns and use my modest writing abilities for something good. During the early years of my practice, I was able to do some good work, but not as much as I would have liked, so I started doing volunteer legal work in the environmental field. I have a special interest in native plants and gardening, and have kept bees for 15 years.

What was it like to walk through the Garden for the first time?

It was a very different place when I first visited about 15 years ago – it felt wilder, in part because there was a lot more buckthorn and more trees. The buckthorn has been beaten back, and we lost a lot of trees to disease and storms. But the wetland area has come alive with the additional light, the new boardwalk and the efforts of staff and volunteers to remove invasive species. The Garden is one of the best birding locations in the Twin Cities – I remember seeing a Northern cardinal, indigo bunting and American goldfinch sitting in one tamarack all at the same time.

Hemlock Grove

THIS QUIET GROVE OF EASTERN HEMLOCK (Tsuga canadensis) at the north end of the Woodland Garden lies at the extreme western edge of its range. Eloise Butler noted that the hemlock “sneaked in, contrary to rule, with the idea that it may sometime break across the Wisconsin border.” It was she who helped sneak them in, planting them in the Garden in 1911 and 1914. This stand contains the largest known Eastern Hemlock in Minneapolis. [Photo G D Bebeau]

Tell us about some of your favorite places in the Garden.

I love Eloise’s hemlock grove and the little level area by the really old wild plums. Another of my favorite places is a spot in the path where there is a very beautiful rock. I told the curator that if the rock ever went missing, she should know where to look for it. I’m not going to describe it, because if I do, someone else will want it too. If the Garden is open in early Spring, I go there on my birthday and hope that the snow trillium are blooming. Other favorites are: Pagoda Dogwood. Wahoo. Bloodroot … I better stop – I have far too many favorites.

school group at wild plum

WILD PLUM BLOSSOMS SPLAY OUT over the heads of Minneapolis high school students following a path through the Upland Garden in May. Listed as a Minneapolis Heritage Tree, this large Wild American Plum (Prunus americana) has a shallow spreading root system that promotes regeneration of dense thickets, good for wildlife cover. Flowers erupt singly or in clusters all along the tree’s woody stems. [Photo G D Bebeau]

What do you feel sets the Garden apart?

There is this romantic notion that, prior to European settlement, the large area around the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, that now includes the Twin Cities, was pristine and wild. It wasn’t. Some of this area was a garden. It was managed by indigenous people for agriculture and for harvesting animals and plant materials to make personal goods and shelter. When we say that a plant is a wild flower, we mean that so far as we know, it is a plant that was growing here before Europeans came to the area. The Garden is a naturalistic but curated and engineered space. As a wildflower garden, it gives people a chance to see plants behaving in a way similar to how they might have before Europeans arrived.

What are some issues the Garden is facing now?

We are in good hands – the current curator has a vision for the Garden that is forward-thinking and science-based, and it appears that the Park Board and the City recognize that the Garden is the jewel of the award-winning Minneapolis park system. I would like to see the Friends continue to focus on making the Garden a welcoming place for children, especially children without other access to outdoor spaces, to safely play and learn. Some of my father’s most cherished memories are of roaming Como Park with his younger brother. I’d like Wirth Park and the Garden to be that kind of place for kids, particularly kids in all the neighborhoods near the park. It should be a joyful place of exploration for all. I would like to see the Garden continue as a place where people new to the U.S. or to Minnesota can come get to know nature. I especially would like to invite Wirth Park’s neighbors to the north to come enjoy the Garden more often, and also become involved in the Friends organization. The Garden is there for absolutely everyone.

There is the prospect of climate change. Since plants don’t migrate the way animals do, the shifting of plant populations is going to need some help – like sourcing plants and seeds from more southern locales to ensure ability to survive in the changing conditions.

Wahoo seed

“THE SIZE OF BURST POPCORN and in the shape of 4-cornered hats,” was how Martha Crone described the seed capsules of the Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpurea). The powdered bark of this low branching shrub was once used as a purgative, and in old herbals the plant was called “Skewer wood,” referencing its use in making skewers, spindles and toothpicks. In the Dakota language, Wahoo means “Arrowwood.” [Photo G D Bebeau]

New species may be introduced. Eloise herself brought native plants from all over the country to grow in the Garden, so this is in keeping with her tradition, her practice of experimenting to see what would grow here.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time as President?

Our past Presidents have put the organization on such a good footing – all I really need to do is not mess it up. Still, I have some thoughts about the future. I see a need to involve more members in the work of the Friends so the organization remains relevant and vital in service to the Garden. I have seen small, passionate non-profit groups fail to consider succession and when the founders move on, the organization withers. We are lucky that our mission is an attractive one – supporting the Garden – and that we have engaged members and a good relationship with the Park Board. I hope to help create opportunities for others to be active in the Friends without necessarily committing to Board service. And I want to work with members to make the Friends a welcome place for everyone. I’m open to ideas on how to make these things happen, and invite members to email me with their thoughts.

Information on some of Kathy's favorite plants:

Snow Trillium
Pagoda Dogwood
Eastern Wahoo


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“Ask Eloise”

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler ca. 1920s
[Photo courtesy Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis Collection]

The following comments are drawn from conversations between Garden visitors and volunteer and staff experts in September 2017.

What is the new tall pink flower in the prairie?

It is biennial gaura, also called biennial bee blossom, with the botanical name Gaura biennis. This Minnesota native was seeded into the prairie several years ago.

Why do there seem to be more monarch butterflies this year?

Local monarch populations fluctuate from year to year. Over-all monarch populations have declined dramatically during the past 20 years. The species is under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing as an endangered species.

Any interesting birds?

On September 24 the group spotted our resident great horned owl clutching a red squirrel in its talons. Also noted on the same day: white throated sparrow, broad winged hawk, blue jay, marsh wren, Lincoln’s sparrow, black throated green warbler, black and white warbler, magnolia warbler, Nashville warbler, golden winged warbler, blue headed vireo, pileated woodpecker, black capped chickadee, goldfinch, flycatcher, red bellied woodpecker and cedar waxwing.

Are you open in winter?

The Garden is open spring, summer and fall. Winter is recovery time for the Garden, as trail conditions can be unsafe and the ground during melting season is vulnerable to compaction, which can harm delicate root systems.


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Shelter Volunteer Update

This year the Shelter volunteer team of 47 people provided 40 staffing hours each week in the Shelter and on trails. Volunteers include trained scientists, gardeners and individuals eager to learn and support the Garden. For more information about volunteering or to submit questions for “Ask Eloise,” email volunteer coordinator Jennifer Dunne.

Friends Invasive Plant Action Group

Wetland, Steep Slopes, Bare Soil Complicate Buckthorn Removal

By Jim Proctor

As I write this I am basking in the glow of a productively destructive buckthorn pull in our Volunteer Stewardship Area in the maple bowl south of the Garden. A dozen volunteers with the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group participated in this first of three fall weeding events. Aside from the threat of rain, our group had another, more sinister specter hanging over our heads: erosion. We’ve worked on slopes before, but this time we were weeding in a valley with several complicating factors that made us especially vigilant in our attempts to prevent soil from washing downhill.

Foremost in my mind was the presence of a vernal pool nested in the bottom of the ravine. According to Wikipedia, “Vernal pools … are a distinctive type of wetland usually devoid of fish, and thus allow the safe development of natal amphibian and insect species unable to withstand competition or predation by fish.” We certainly heard frogs in the pond; in fact, a lone chorus frog was calling out as we worked. Raw soil flowing into the pool would damage this critical habitat.

Second was the extent of the slope itself. It is longer and steeper than anything we’ve tackled before. You get the picture; more distance for water to pick up speed and more area to gather soil.

A third factor contributing to erosion was the nearly absent layer of ground vegetation in large areas of the valley. We assume this is due largely to the presence of earthworms and the severe dominance of buckthorn. When we remove all buckthorn in a given area, it almost looks like we’ve plowed the soil, with nothing living remaining! We’ve done some replacement planting in the past, but we mostly depend on remnant native plants and seeds in the soil to fill in. Here, the natural processes may take too long or not happen at all in the worst areas.

vernal pool
Glimmer of a Vernal Pool.
[Photo Jim Proctor]

So what are we to do? First, we asked volunteers not to pull all the buckthorn as they went along. I assure you it’s not easy for a seasoned buckthorn buster to pass by a buckthorn that could just as easily be pulled, but that’s what we did. The invasive shrubs we left behind will continue to grow, but since they are mostly second-growth buckthorn stems from a cut several years ago, none are fruiting yet. They aren’t likely to contribute to the weed seedbed in one more year.

We also have decided to start seeding in a native cover crop as we work. After consulting with Garden Curator Susan Wilkins, we purchased native wild rye to scatter just before we pull buckthorn in the next two weeding events. The seed will work into the soil as we do our thing. It should have a chance to germinate this year and provide some protection from erosion in the spring. We plan to add in other native species next fall. It’s an exciting project! Let us know if you’d like to take part.

Jim Proctor is chair of the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group and can be reached by email.

Additional Information:

Background photos and commentary on the work in the Maple Bowl.


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2017 Volunteer Appreciation Event

Delight, camaraderie, satisfaction, good cheer: friends celebrate a season of volunteering in the Garden at the annual event on Oct. 2

Photos by Melissa Hansen, Maggie Tuff, Karen Smudski.

Friends volunteer event
A lovely portrait of Molly Nelson and Pam Lapham
Friends volunteer event
Dave Stack, Jim Coleman, Bill Blood
Friends volunteer event
Jeff Mancl, Jim Proctor
Friends volunteer event
Kari Christianson, Mary Furth and Lauren Borer raise their glasses.
Friends volunteer event
In the buffet line at the Volunteer Event are l to r: Maggie Tuff, Karen Smudski, Mary Steinbicker and Howard Towle.

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New Members


Joseph Schmidt, St Louis Park
Susan Scofield, Minneapolis


Frederick and Catherine Asher, Minneapolis
Nora Plesofsky, Minneapolis
Catherine Rome, St Petersburg, FL
Elosie Erban Titrington, E. Greenwich, RI


John and Carol Quinn, Golden Valley


Katherine Solomonson and Thomas Erickson, Minneapolis

Membership information

Membership information for
Joining the Friends
Renewing your membership or
Making a gift membership

Can be found on our Website Membership page.

Information on paying by check or by credit card is found there also.

Memorials Received
June - September 2017

For Karen M. Arrell from Janet Anderson, Nancy Anderson, Janet Arrell, James Arrell, Robert and Eileen Arrell, James Assali, Roger Cowles and Josine Peters, Geri Dahlberg, Denise Dirnberger, Bonnie Dudovitz, Victoria Francisco, Frank Ganley, Nora Hamburge, Sheila Hansen, Irene Heath, Judy Heisick, Nicholas Heisick, Debra Hoffman, Joyce La Fontaine, Lake of the Isles AFG, LaVonne Mountain, Linda Nelson, Geri Nygaard, Ohio National, Nancy Okerkund, Gail Olson, Kathleen Olson, Paul and Joy Olson, Mary Paulson, Marilyn and Paul Piazza, Davie and Mary Jane Plaseh, Linda Polley, Jane Rogalla, Pam, Bill and Matt Rosenquist, Walt Shofner, Harriet Sibell, Mary and Bob Strandberg, Jane Swenson and Gordon Arf, Deanna Kae Tumoie, Roxie and Steve Vogl, Mark Vondelinde and Bob Whitlock and Peggy Weber

For Thomas Bridgman from Katherine Ellgen

For Vernon Brundell from Michael Larson and Marijane Tessman.

For Patricia Chapman from Barbara Levie

For Eleanor “Ele” Hokanson from Barbara Levie.

For Lisa Locken from Edy Miller.

For Gloria Miller from Bonnie Esplie, Sally Kundert, Judy Cooper Lyle, Kathleen Mayer, Steve and Sally Pundt, Phoebe Waugh and Pam Weiner.

For Gladys Olsen from Philip and Carolyn Brunelle

For Natalie T. Quinn from John Quinn.

For Heather Rueth from Carol and Bob Jordan.

For Laurie Snow from Michael Snow

For Susannah May Trebtoske from John and Joan Haldeman.

For Paul Frank Werler from John and Joan Haldeman.

In honor of George and Josephine Leiter from Sheila Leiter.

In honor of the wedding of Bonni Sargant and Frank Fallon from Steve Benson.

Donations Received in support of our programs
June - September 2017

Donna Ahrens
Cindy Angerhofer
Mary Kay Arthur
Zachary Baker
Candy Bartol
Colin Bartol
Scott Beers
Kristin Benson
Natalie Benson
Kathleen Connelly
Erickson/Solomonson DAF Fund
Estee Lauder Companies
Arlene Fried
Michelle Gordon
Karol Gresser
Lauren Husting
Scott & Pat Lavold
Pamela Layton
Marcia Marshall
Pixie Martin & Jay Erstling
Mike Menzel & Kathy Iverson
Donald & Susanne Nevin
Jennifer Olson
Qualtiy Bicycle Products
Mark Rask
Robert Reilly
Marilyn Rolfing
Chris Ruiz
Karen Smudski & Jeffery Mancl
Denise Sterling
John & Stephanie Sulzbach

Details on how to make a donation or a memorial and what The Friends do with the funds can be found on our Website Donations Page


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