The Friends of the Wildflower Garden

Then and Now at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Wetland Trees and Paths.

The tree canopy of the Woodland Garden has changed considerably over the 110+ years of the Garden's existence. One change forces another which causes another. In the photo below taken on Oct. 30, 1948, we see an extensive grouping of Paper Birch in the wetland area. It is unclear if this group is in the current wetland area or in the wetland of the North Meadow that prior to 1944 was part of the Garden. Friends member J. S. Futcher has written that there was an extensive Paper Birch swale just north of the Garden's back gate. The topography in the photo does not make it clear which area we are looking at. While birch are not a long-lived species, the changes in the amount of water in the wetland area have depleted their numbers such that today there are very few.

Birch trees in the bog 1948

In the photo below taken on Nov. 8, 1951, we have another view of the wetland Paper Birch group.

Winter trees in the bog

Below: In the two 2008 photos below we are looking out through the barren trees of April, across the current Garden wetland and toward the west hillside. This could be a similar perspective to the photos at the top of the page if the birch in those old photos were in the current Garden space. We see a birch or two, but the extensive grove no longer is there. Most of what we see are ash and maple. The photo immediately below is taken near Garden Guidepost #32 and the other photo from further north near Guidepost #33. Gardener Cary George reported in the Fringed Gentian™ in September 1990 that a large number of the old birch had been lost in the drought that occurred in the last years of the 1980 decade. Trees in the wetland today are mostly ash, red maple, tamarack, white cedar, a few black spruce and swamp white oak. Shrubs include dogwoods, buttonbush, nannyberry, ninebark, highbush cranberry and alder.

The bog today in spring The bog in spring

Photo below: The northern end of the wetland today is anchored by Tamaracks and a few Maples. The wetland was heavy with Tamarack in the early years of the Garden but the severe storm of 1925 destroyed many of the Tamarack. Eloise Butler wrote about it the next year: “The leading tree in the swamp was the tamarack. They were piled up like jackstraws by the tornado, and but few left standing. They have been replanted by later curators and gardeners Martha Crone, Ken Avery and Cary George.


In 1946 Garden Curator Martha Crone wanted visitors to have a close-up view of aquatic plants that were in open water pool in the wetland, so a trail through the center of the wetland was added. With the path in, she was able to have 3 small pools placed along the path.

Below: On Crone's hand-drawn map of the Garden from 1952, the trail marked "Swamp Trail" is the one added in 1946. The trail leading from it to the East Path was added in 1946/1947. The three new pools of 1946/1947 are shown on the Swamp Trail. The pool at the north end by the foot bridge is the original pool created by Eloise Butler.

1952 map of garden

Below: An aerial photo of the center of the wetland from 1947 showing the new path and the 3 small pools. Photo courtesy University of Minnesota.

1947 aerial photo

Photo Below One of the paths in the wetland on May 7, 1957. Note the Marsh Marigolds growing along the path.

Path in Marsh

Below: Another wetland view showing part of the Swamp Trail and one of the 3 new pools on May 27, 1950.

Wetland May 27, 1950

Changes in plant groupings over 70 years. In the photo below taken on May 31, 1952 we see an extensive grouping of Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia L.) along the Woodland path leading to the open wetland area. This is near where Garden Guidepost #29 is located today. Large lush ferns mark the right side of the path. Martha Crone was very fond of creating mass groupings of plants as this extensive group of Foamflower shows.

Foamflowers in the bog

Below: Portions of the Swamp Trail had a corduroy base which can be seen more clearly in the photo from June 3, 1954. The area is near the current guidebook stations 28 and 29. Ferns still grow on the right side of the path but the extensive growth of Foamflower has been replaced by other species. Wild Geranium appears to be behind the Foamflower.

Foam Flower Path

Below -1st photo: The same turn of the path on June 5, 2008. Foamflower still grows here but the specimens are usually found only as single plants. Instead, other native plants are present - Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) in particular is found here as shown in the photo. 2nd photo: A more extensive view of the area on April 29, 2008 showing the topography more clearly. These trail sections were replaced by a boardwalk in 2019 which is shown in the 3rd photo. This is the southern end of the boardwalk just after installation. The area of the first two photos is just beyond the clump of treens in the center of the photo.

Bog path in 2008 Bog path in spring 2019 boardwalk

For more information on the wetland at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden see our article on "Wetland History"